n Acta Juridica - Securing women's property inheritance in the context of plurality : negotiations of law and authority in Mbuzini customary courts and beyond

Volume 2011, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



This contribution examines two sets of issues - law and dispute resolution, and succession and property - with a view to obtaining a better understanding of the ways in which rural women's property rights are negotiated, secured and threatened. These processes occur at the interfaces between different forms of law and authority. Rather than taking intra-family relations vis-à-vis succession as a focus of the study of local dispute resolution, this contribution takes an institutional perspective. It therefore asks: within the many, and volatile, laws and authorities under which rural women live their lives, how do they negotiate with local customary institutional actors in their attempts to secure recognition and respect for their rights in land, particularly as gained through succession? By necessity, it also asks the converse: given the many, and volatile, laws and authorities subject to which local customary institutional actors exercise their functions, how do they negotiate with other institutions and the community they serve in their attempts to secure legitimacy and authority over land and related disputes? I use a case study in Mbuzini to illustrate the complexities of law, authority, dispute resolution, property and succession - a widow accused of illegally redefining her property's boundaries. The result of this inquiry tells us less about women's inheritance as an event than it does about the landscape of contestation and power in which women endeavour to secure their land rights.

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