The ethics of land restitution

Journal of Religious Ethics 34 (4):685-707 (2006)
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Abstract

Many indigenous communities were dispossessed of their land during the period of colonial rule. This long process resulted in forced demographic removals and perennial poverty. Nowadays these communities, especially Third World groups, seek redress of this situation through legal processes of land restitution. This process is met by resistance from landowners in these countries, the colonial powers of old, as well as from big corporations that benefited from the dispossession. The investigation undertaken in this article addresses the ethics of land reform from a Christian ethical perspective. The policy of land restitution in South Africa is used as a case study, but the results of this research are also applicable to other parts of the world where land restitution is considered. The article first evaluates the biblical teachings of land and land reform and their implications for modern ethics. In the light of these issues, the article addresses the question of whether land ownership can be considered as a fundamental human right. The article also focuses on the legality of expropriation and dispossession of land for the purposes of restitution. Moreover, guidelines for fair and legal restitution within the context of Christian ethics and legal philosophical principles are proposed

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