Negotiating property rights in southern africa through the novel magora panyama: A legal perspective
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.
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