Land Rights Research

Our Director, Dr Maureen Tong sits on the Board of Legal Aid South Africa as a land rights specialist. She has many years of experience working on land reform and land rights. She offers research, advisory and consultancy services on land rights and land reform. She is also highly experienced in conducting research, writing and speaking on rights of women.

Dr Maureen Tong worked for about 10 years in the then Department of Land Affairs; Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (Land Claims Commission); and the Ministry for Agriculture and Land Affairs. She started as Chief Planner at the Provincial Department of Land Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal in 1997 working on farm labour tenants and farm occupier projects in the uMzinyathi and Zululand regions. She supervised the land rights officers servicing these regions from the Vryheid District Office. She contributed to developing systems and procedures for projects to benefit farm labour tenants and farm occupiers.

She was subsequently recruited to the Land Claims Commission to become the Deputy Director for the Legal and Policy Unit located at the Office of the Chief Land Claims Commissioner. After that she became the Deputy Director at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria.

Dr Tong returned to the National Office of the Department of Land Affairs in 2001 to become the first Chief Operations Officer (COO) managing the Office of the Director General. She was responsible for developing and tabling the departmental strategic plan and annual report at Parliament. She supervised the Risk Management Unit; Internal Audit; Monitoring and Evaluation Unit; Executive Management Services; and the Gender Unit. She was appointed Acting Director General on two separate occasions while she was COO.

In 2006 Dr Maureen Tong became the Chief of Staff for the then newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Ms Lulu Xingwana. Dr Tong provided policy and administrative support to Minister Lulu Xingwana. She also provided support to Minister Xingwana in her oversight role over state owned entities like the Land Bank; the National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC); the Agricultural Research Council (ARC); etc. Dr Tong joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as Operations Manager in 2007. In 2008 she resigned from the UNDP to live in Sweden and France to complete her doctoral studies. The Université de Strasbourg awarded her the PhD in International Law in November 2009. She graduated on 18 June 2010.

More recently, Dr Maureen Tong returned to the public service on a consultancy basis. She served as Special Advisor to the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land and Agriculture in South Africa from 1 December 2018 to 31 May 2019.

Dr Maureen Tong worked as a research consultant at the John Langalibalele Dube Institute at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In 2016 she joined the High – Level Research Panel on Land Reform at the same Institute. She delivered the John Langalibalele Dube Memorial Lecture in September 2017.

Dr Tong has published books and articles on land reform, rights in land and women’s access to land and agriculture. She authored two authoritative volumes on restitution of land rights in South Africa under the title of Lest We Forget. The first volume is titled ‘Lest We Forget: The Restitution Digest on Administrative Decisions’ was published in 2002. The second volume was published in 2007 with the title ‘Lest we Forget: Jurisprudence on Land Restitution in South Africa.’ Both volumes were published by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights in South Africa. These two volumes continue to be widely used as resource materials by staff at the Land Claims Commission.

In 2018 Dr Maureen Tong served as Guest co-editor of the Special Edition of the peer reviewed Agenda Journal on Feminist Media titled Land, Violence and Women’s bodies, A luta continua, vitória é certa? Volume 32, 2018 No 117/32.4 2018 Taylor and Francis ISSN 1013 – 0590 (Print) ISSN 2158 – 978 X (Online).

In 2014 Dr Maureen Tong’s article ‘Decolonisation and Comparative Land Reform with a Focus on Africa’ was published by the peer reviewed International Journal on African Renaissance Studies (IJARS)Taylor and Francis Publishers, ISBN (Print) 1818 – 6874 ISBN (Online) 1753 – 7274, June 2014.

Dr Tong published again in 2014. Her article “The Concept of ‘Peoples’ in the African Human Rights System: The Matter of the People of the Chagos Islands,” was published by the peer-reviewed journal, The South African Yearbook of International Law, (SAYIL) (2014) 39 Supp SAYIL, pp 32 ISSN 0379 – 8895.
In 2011 BRILL Publishers, Netherlands published Dr Tong’s article ‘Self-determination in the Post-Colonial Era: Prospects for Chagossians’ in the book ‘Eviction from the Chagos Islands: Displacement and Struggle for Identity Against Two World Powers.’

In 2006 Dr Maureen Tong co-authored a book ‘Framework Concept Document on Indigenous Populations and Communities in Africa,’ published by the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

In 2002 Dr Tong contributed the Africa section of the first annual report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. See UN Doc E/CN.4/2002/97 April 2002. In 2003 she published an article titled ‘The Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People, Indigenous Affairs’, 3/03 published by the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).