Contemporary postapartheid South African land struggles are haunted by the long shadow of historical dispossession. While apartheid-era forced removals are justifiably infamous, these traumatic events were moments in the more extended, less frequently referenced, and more expansive process that fundamentally shaped the South African terrain well before 1948. The South African Republic's mid-nineteenth-century assertion of ownership of all land north of the Vaal River and south of the Limpopo marked the start of a long process of racialized dispossession that rendered black people's residence in putatively white areas highly contingent and insecure throughout the former Transvaal. This article analyzes the connections between past dispossession and contemporary rural land and natural resource struggles in the Limpopo and North West provinces, contending that addressing South Africa's vexed present requires a fuller reckoning with its past.

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