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Dr Rosalie Kingwill

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Student Focus:

Land tenure reform, land ownership concepts, inheritance of land; customary succession; customary and ‘living’ law; historical and evolving land rights and tenure institutions; legal reform of tenure; land tilting and registration; tenure and gender


Rosalie Kingwill is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (Plaas), University of the Western Cape, where she was awarded her PhD degree in 2014 for her thesis entitled ‘The Map is not the Territory. Law and Custom in ‘African freehold’: a South African Case study’. She is also research associate at the Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town. Her research interests are property rights, inheritance of land; customary succession; and urban and rural land tenure.

She was previously based in the Eastern Cape where she worked in the land sector for thirty years, as a researcher and practitioner in the non-governmental land sector and as a research consultant. She was simultaneously a research associate at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), Rhodes University for six years. Past projects have included land rights research and adjudication; state land disposal; detailed historical research into land administration systems in the Eastern Cape; restitution claims; Municipal Integrated Development plans and spatial planning and land use management frameworks; evaluations and assessments of a range of state and municipal projects, programmes and policies.

She was a member of a national land tenure action research collective, Leap, for the last ten years of its lifespan from 2005-2015. The collective was committed to the promotion of progressive policies for securing meaningful land rights for all South Africans, urban and rural. Through action research, networking and participation, the collective explored the weaknesses in land tenure security for the poor across various landscapes in South Africa. The medium was sharing ideas, concepts and experiences drawing from participative engagement and various case material in South Africa. The core group has edited a book (submitted for publication) that draws from selected case studies to reflect on land tenure concepts and the problems with the legal reform of land tenure in post-apartheid South Africa.

She worked in the land-NGO sector in the Eastern Cape, first working with the national National Land Committee, and, from 1987-1997 for one of its key affiliates, the Border Rural Committee (BRC) where she co-ordinated the research unit during the latter period. BRC was and continues to be engaged in supporting the ongoing struggles of rural communities to attain meaningful development through land and agrarian reform. She was non-executive Director (Treasurer) of BRC’s Board of Directors from 2000-2006.


PhD (Land and Agrarian Studies), PLAAS, University of the Western Cape


  1. Cousins, B., Hornby, D., Kingwill, R. & Royston, L. (eds). (forthcoming) Untitled: Securing Land Tenure in urban and rural South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press.
  2. Kingwill, R. 2014. Papering over the Cracks: An Ethnography of Land Title in the Eastern Cape. Kronos: a Journal of Southern Africa 40(1).
  3. Kingwill, R. 2014. The map is not the territory: law and custom in ‘African freehold’: a South African case study. PhD Thesis. University of the Western Cape.
  4. Kingwill, R. 2012. ‘Lost In Translation. Family title in Fingo Village, Grahamstown’. In Mostert, Hanri. & Tom Bennett (editors) Special Issue. Acta Juridica 2011. Cape Town: Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town Press also published in Mostert, H. & Bennett, T. Pluralism and Development. Studies in Access to Property in Africa. Cape Town: Juta.
  5. Kingwill, R. 2008. ‘Custom-building freehold title: the impact of family values on historical ownership in the Eastern Cape,’ in Cousins, B. and Claassens, A. (eds). Land, Power and Custom: Controversies generated by South Africa’s Communal Land Rights Act. Cape Town: UCT press.
  6. Kingwill, R. 2007. ‘Local Understandings of land ownership and their implications’, in Surveying Technical.  Johannesburg: Position IT, EE Publishers.
  7. Kingwill, R., Cousins, B., Cousins, T., Hornby, D., Royston, L. and Smit, W., 2006. Mysteries and myths: de Soto, property and poverty in South Africa. London: IIED.
  8. Cousins, B., Cousins, T., Hornb,y D., Kingwill, R., Royston, L., and Smit, W. ‘Will formalising property rights reduce poverty in South Africa’s ‘second economy’? Questioning the mythologies of Hernando de Soto’ PLAAS Policy Brief 18. Cape Town: PLAAS, UWC.
  9. Kingwill, R. 2004. Square Pegs for Round Holes? Some questions relating to the emerging Land Management Frameworks in South Africa Paper: Symposium on ‘Aligning Development Planning with Communal tenure arrangements in the Context of Changing Legislation in South Africa’. Pietermaritzburg: KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Planning and Development Commission (PPDC) & Legal Entity Assessment Project (LEAP).
  10. Kingwill, R. 2004. Seeking Equilibrium: Land Rights Adjudication in off-register, non-formal, or formalising contexts in South Africa. In: New legal frameworks and tools. Proceedings of the Expert Group Meeting on Secure land tenure: Gigiri in Nairobi, Kenya; International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Commission.
  11. Brown, M. Erasmus, J., Kingwill, R., Murray, C., & Roodt, M. 1998. The Macleantown restitution case, Eastern Cape, in Brown, M. Land Restitution in South Africa: A long Way Home. Cape Town: Idasa.
  12. Cocks, M. & Kingwill, R. 1998. ‘Land and Agrarian Reform: Transition and continuity on former white-owned farmland in an Eastern Cape locality’. Proceedings of the International Conference on Land Tenure in the Developing World with a focus on Southern Africa, University of Cape Town, 27-29 January 1998.