This month UKZN Press publishes a new book on land tenure called Untitled: Securing Land Tenure in Urban and Rural South Africa. It launches this week in Cape Town and next week in Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg.

On 6th July, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) is co-hosting the Johannesburg launch with UKZN Press and the NRF Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, Wits University. SERI’s director of litigation, Nomzamo Zondo, will be in conversation with one of the editors and authors and former director of research and advocacy at SERI, Lauren Royston. Monty Narsoo, independent human settlements specialist and Margot Rubin, co-author, will join them.

The book challenges the simple equation that a title deed equals tenure security and its apparently self-evident assumptions. It argues that two very different property paradigms characterise South Africa. The first is the dominant paradigm of private property, referred to as an ‘edifice’, against which all other property regimes are measured and ranked. However, the majority of South Africans gain access to land and housing through very different processes, which this book calls social or off-register tenures. These tenures are poorly understood, a gap Untitled aims to address.

The book reveals that ‘informal’ and customary property systems can be well organised, often providing substantial tenure security, but lack official recognition and support. This makes them difficult to service and vulnerable to elite capture. Policy interventions usually aim to formalise these arrangements by issuing title deeds. The case studies in this book, which span both rural and urban contexts in South Africa, examine these interventions and the unintended consequences they often give rise to. Interventions based on an understanding of locally embedded property relations are more likely to succeed than those that attempt to transform them into registered tenures. However, emerging practices hit intractable obstacles associated with the ‘edifice’, which only a substantial transformation of the legal paradigms can overcome.

The book is available at all good bookstores as well as via the online bookstores such as Loot, Takealot and Exclusives.

The Cape Town Launch is on Wednesday 28th June at the Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cape Town at 5.30 pm. Rosalie Kingwill and Ben Cousins, editors and authors, will be in discussion with Philile Ntuli.

The Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) will launch the book on Saturday 1st July at 9am at Project Gateway on 4 Burger Street. Donna Hornby, editor and author, will speak at this event.

The Johannesburg book launch is on Thursday 6th July at 5.30 pm at Wits University in the Humanities Graduate Centre, Ground Floor, Room 10, South West Engineering Building, East Campus.