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By Gaynor Paradza and Jabu Hlatshwayo


Secure land tenure is a precondition to beneficial land occupation. Tenure security enables land holders to derive benefit from their land. Although they have valid claims to land, indigenous people experience persistent tenure insecurity which, in turn, undermines their livelihoods. Indigenous communities have experienced historical injustices that include the violent dispossession of their land and natural forest and marine resources. Although the democratic South African government initiated reforms to restore land and right the injustices, the failure to conclusively resolve these processes have not only perpetuated the injustices but have left indigenous communities vulnerable to further alienation from their land and livelihood resources. The climate-related pressure on indigenous lands juxtaposed with the targeting of the same land for renewables, poses new risks to the livelihoods of indigenous communities. Although the government has put in place legislation, policies and frameworks to support the energy transition, limited attention has been paid to land tenure issues, specifically indigenous land entitlements and the recognition and protection of those indigenous lands and livelihoods. This policy brief explores the just energy transition in South Africa to highlight how (if not sensitively handled) the process can potentially entrench land alienation for the indigenous populations. Focusing on the site earmarked for the country’s green hydrogen hub in Boegoebaai in the Northern Cape Province, the brief highlights how the just energy transition can potentially undermine the social and livelihood circumstances of the local indigenous community who are the custodians of the Richtersveld. Using historical data, literature review, social media and key informant interviews, the brief then demonstrates how the development of the green hydrogen hub can be done to address historical spatial injustices while capitalising on economic opportunities arising from the global energy transition.