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Mandela’s Legacy on Land Revisited

July 31, 2014, Press releases

New Book Highlights How Past Land Theft Can Cripple South Africa’s Economic Development

Chicago, Il. – July 31, 2014On Monday, over 50 African leaders will attend the historic U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit to expand trade ties and request additional US investment in security and democracy.  While South Africa is the continent’s economic leader, President Jacob Zuma has a ticking time bomb threatening his nation’s prosperity—past land theft.

Mandela’s promise to correct past land theft has thus far gone unfulfilled. When apartheid ended in 1994, 87% of South Africa’s land was owned by whites although they constituted less than 10% of the population.  This year marks South Africa’s 20th year of democracy, but the post-apartheid state has transferred less than 10% of the land from whites back to blacks.

Unsurprisingly, blacks are angry.  If nothing decisive is done, there may be political instability, which causes economic instability.

Professor Bernadette Atuahene’s new book We Want What’s Ours: Learning from South Africa’s Land Restitution Program (Oxford University Press, 2014) uses interviews with 150 South Africans to understand how the nation can build on its successes and learn from its failures in addressing past land theft.  The book finds that communication, accountability, and equity are vital.

The global relevance of We Want What’s Ours extends beyond South Africa’s borders. The lessons highlighted can help governments, policy makers, scholars, and international organizations the world over to implement reparations programs.

 To arrange a book event, radio interview, or television interview, please contact Bernadette Atuahene at batuahene@kentlaw.eduWe Want What’s Ours is available in hardback and as an e-book. For more information, or to purchase the book, visit

Click here to view the book trailer.

About Professor Bernadette Atuahene:

Bernadette Atuahene is a professor of law at IIT, Chicago-Kent College of Law and Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation.  She has a JD from Yale and a MPA from Harvard.  Prof. Atuahene has done extensive research, writing, public speaking, and consulting on land issues.   


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