FROM THE DESK | Mapping Tribal Village Demarcations

 In From The Desk

In South Africa, worlds are about to collide.

Most South African villages are comprised of geopolitical boundaries that are not accurately reflected in official government demarcations such as wards and main places.

Tribal villages (and sections thereof) form the geographical basis of traditional administration systems that are usually managed by local village headsmen in conjunction with the Tribal Authority. Such systems represent an ‘informal’ land use management process of sorts; whereby new stands are allocated, certain business activities are approved, churches are established, neighbourhood externalities addressed etc.

These activities are (and have been for many generations) conducted in the context of communal land arrangements and tribal fraternity – a spatial domain of the South African settlement landscape that is for the most part located outside of municipal land use schemes.

SATPLAN ALPHA conducted several workshops with dikgosana (local village headsman) of 32 villages within the Bakgatla Ba Kgafela Traditional Administration (BBKTA) to digitally capture village section boundaries as spatial data layers for use in GIS. For many of the (primarily elderly) dikgosana, this was their first encounter with a full aerial view of their respective village and/or section. This did not jeopardise data quality, however, as their interpretation skills through spatial memory was remarkable!

The resulting village section layer has since assisted in the framing of BBKTA spatial development initiatives, as well as the compilation of a customised tribal land use scheme.

The geocoding of indigenous knowledge and associated spatial systems is becoming increasingly important in so far as the newly promulgated Spatial Planning & Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) requires that the next generation of municipal land use schemes must be ‘wall-to-wall’. Addressing the current spatial fragmentation of land use schemes through SPLUMA implies a uniform applicability across urban, rural and tribal areas within a municipal jurisdiction.

For municipal land use schemes to be both relevant and workable in tribal contexts, they should strive to adhere as much as possible to recognised village demarcations and associated land use management activities.

In South Africa, worlds are about to collide. It is yet to be seen to what extent post-SPLUMA land use schemes are functionally aligned to tribal administrations. Watch this space.

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