Negotiating Property Rights in Southern Africa through the Novel Magora Panyama: A Legal Perspective

Article excerpt

Summary

In Africa, debates on the question of property rights have tended to be carried out in learned law journals and in legal courts. This narrowing of the sites where contestations over property rights are fought over has then tended to overshadow other potential sites where issues of property rights are debated. In southern Africa, creative writers have been at the forefront of using their art composed in African indigenous languages to depict the conflicts that arise in the traditional and modern legal systems. Fiction has tended to provide a moral compass using characters whose actions undergird certain social forces representing ideas behind certain laws that govern the negotiation of property rights. Fiction has also used its images to suggest acceptable legal principles, rules and regulations that can be emulated when Africans negotiate property rights among themselves. The aim of this article is to use the novel Magora Panyama (1999) [Vultures on the Carcasses] to demonstrate how the author depicts (1) the handling of property rights from the perspective of the unwritten moral and traditional African customary law, (2) the understanding of property rights in the modern law/courts brought by colonialism, (3) the contestation of these two dual legal forms for the battle of the African souls. The article argues that the author of the novel adopts a moderate ideological stance that recognises some aspects of traditional customary law as important and rejects other aspects viewed as extreme. The author also adopts the most positive attributes of modern law.

Opsomming

In Afrika is daar 'n neiging dat debatte oor die kwessie van eiedomsregte in regsvaktydskdfte en--howe plaasvind. Hierdie vemouing van plekke waar geskille oor eiendomsreg uitbaklei word, oorskadu dan ander moontlike plekke waar kwessies oor eiendomsreg gedebatteer word. In Suider-Afrika was kreatiewe skrywers in die voorste geledere van diegene wat hul kuns (wat in inheemse Afrikatale geskryf is) gebruik het om die konflik wat uit tradisionele en modeme regstelsels voortvIoei, uit te beeld. Fiksie was geneig om 'n morele kompas te verskaf deur karakters uit te beeld wie se dade sekere sosiale magte ondersteun het wat idees agter sekere regte verteenwoordig bet en onderhandelings oor eiendomsreg beheer het. Die beelde in fiksie is ook gebruik om aanvaarbare regsbeginsels,--reels en--regulasies voor te stel wat Afrikane kon volg wanneer hulle eiendomsreg onderling beding het. Die doel met hierdie artikel is om die roman Magora Panyama [Vultures on the Carcasses] (1999) te gebruik om aan te toon hoe die skrywer die volgende uitbeeld: (1) die hantering van eiendomsreg vanuit die perspektief van die ongeskrewe morele en tradisionele gewoontereg van Afrika, (2) die begrip van eiendomsreg in die moderne reg/howe wat deur kolonialisme ingevoer is en (3) die stryd tussen hierdie twee regsvorme in die stryd vir die siele van Afrikane, In die artikel word daar aangevoer dat die skrywer van die roman 'n gematigde ideologiese standpunt inneem, wat sommige aspekte van tradisionele gewoontereg as belangrik erken en ander aspekte wat as radikaal beskou word, verwerp. Die skrywer aanvaar ook die positiefste kenmerke van die moderne reg.

Introduction: Women's Property Rights in the Context of African Customary Law

Customary laws of inheritance discriminate against female beneficiaries. Some are accorded rights of inheritance and some are not. In most African countries, the laws relating to marital property and inheritance rights remain discriminatory against women as they are not entitled to inherit property at the death of the husband or the dissolution of the marriage. In countries such as Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland to name but a few, married women are seen as legal minors who cannot enter into contracts without the consent of their husbands. This article highlights the property rights of married women and reveals the challenges they face upon the death of their spouses. …