Incorporating indigenous forms of governance in the management of natural resources: The case of South Africa's Royal Bafokeng
Taodzera, Shingirai Lenon
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South Africa’s Royal Bafokeng community is often cited as an example of community based mineral resource ownership that ought to be considered as an alternative to the central state. This claim is made against the background of failed state management of oil, diamonds, or platinum resources in Africa, which resulted in the “resource curse” hypothesis. It is also made within the global narrative of “decentralization” and “participation,” whereby grassroots-based policy and institutional frameworks are regarded as alternatives to global and national institutions. However, scholars often neglect the relationship between ownership structures and political and economic outcomes. This study considers the extent to which the Royal Bafokeng’s ownership structure ought to be considered as an alternative to the state in the management of mineral resources. It finds that firstly, decentralised ownership structures should not be conceived as an alternative, since they do not automatically guarantee preferable developmental outcomes. It also shows that the Bafokeng’s mineral ownership structure is a result of historical factors, best described through the concept of “longue duree,” not deliberate state policy outcomes. It also argues that this ownership structure is not easily transferrable, due to the contending power dynamics that make it infeasible in other contexts in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.