Ownership of heritage resources in South Africa: challenges and opportunities

Ndukuyakhe Ndlovu

Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield, Pretoria, South Africa. Email: ndukuyakhe@googlemail.com

Cite this as: Ndlovu, N. 2013 Ownership of heritage resources in South Africa: challenges and opportunities, Internet Archaeology 33. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.33.5


The concept of ownership is highly political. Ownership provides power to the one legally seen as an owner or those tasked with the responsibility to protect and preserve heritage resources. This is no different when it comes to heritage resources, whose ownership is always contentious. The main reason for such contention is because ownership impacts on those who value objects in different ways. For example, the nature of access to heritage resources approved for people who may still attach spiritual values. As a direct result, the relevance of such heritage resources to such people may be brought into question, as the need to have them available to all citizens gain momentum. Heritage resources in South Africa have been subject to legislation since 1911, when the Bushmen Relics Act was passed. Since then, much other legislation and amendments have been passed over the years. They all aim to protect different kinds of heritage resources. Central to protection efforts is a decision to have the ownership of heritage resources put under the national estate. Ownership of heritage under South African heritage legislation will be discussed in this article. Drawing on case studies from southern Africa, the main aim of the article is to identify the challenges and opportunities attached to such a form of ownership. Opinions relating to the best approach to ownership of heritage resources are offered.

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File last updated: Tue Feb 05 2013