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From Reparations to Dignity Restoration: The Story of the Popela Community.
African Human Rights Law Journal (2018)
  • Bernadette Atuahene
  • Sanele Sibanda
In certain circumstances property takings are part of a larger strategy to further subjugate a certain group within the polity by denying their humanity or their capacity to reason. These takings involve more than the confiscation of property; they also involve the deprivation of dignity. In her book, We want what’s ours: Learning from South Africa’s land restitution program, Atuahene has called these dignity takings. The Popela people are a resource-poor, but culturally-rich African community from South Africa’s Limpopo region that the colonial and apartheid regimes subjected to dignity takings. The post-apartheid state was interested not only in providing compensation for property taken from the Popela community and others, but also facilitating dignity restoration – a comprehensive remedy that addresses the deprivations of property as well as dignity. At the end of a protracted legal battle, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Popela community was entitled to reparations requiring the post-apartheid state to purchase the disputed land from its current owners and return it to the community. However, the state went above and beyond the Court-ordered remedy and tried to facilitate dignity restoration by expanding the number of community members entitled to land and increasing the amount of land transferred. The problem, however, is that over ten years since the much-celebrated court victory, the state has failed to deliver the more modest reparations mandated by the Constitutional Court as well as the more ambitious remedy designed to bring about dignity restoration. This article charts the consequences of the state’s failed move from reparations to dignity restoration.
  • Popela,
  • reparations,
  • South Africa,
  • Atuahene,
  • Limpopo,
  • land restitution program,
  • property taking,
  • dignity,
  • post-apartheid state
Publication Date
Citation Information
Bernadette Atuahene and Sanele Sibanda. "From Reparations to Dignity Restoration: The Story of the Popela Community." African Human Rights Law Journal Vol. 18 Iss. 2 (2018) p. 654 - 683
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