The Legal Entity Assessment Project (LEAP) is a collaborative project that was started in 1999 in KwaZulu-Natal. It was a response to growing concerns in the land sector around the apparent dysfunctionality of the common property institutions (CPI’s) that were established under the land reform programmes. These CPI’s, most commonly Trusts and Communal Property Associations (CPA’s), were being established to take over the title of tracts of land on behalf of groups of people who were beneficiaries of the Land Reform programmes.
The initial objective of the project, what is now referred to as phase 1, was to develop a better understanding of the nature of the problems CPA’s and Trusts were facing and what factors affected their ability to function. While problems were numerous, it became clear that without a conceptual framework, a way in which to assess these institutions, analysis of their problems and development of solutions would be weak.
Phase 2 of LEAP concentrated on developing a conceptual framework that could be used in examining cases in the field, and analysing underlying causes of dysfunction and possible solutions.
Using this conceptual framework LEAP moved into Phase 3 on the premise that the key purpose of CPI’s was to secure tenure for the group and individuals and that primarily secure tenure is about:
- Defendable rights and enforceable duties to property and benefits flowing from it;
- Rules, procedures and systems for managing these property rights and duties.
This framework has allowed LEAP to map the components of common property tenure and develop indicators to assess the tenure security of groups and members of groups in common property situations.
While Leap’s early work focused on rural tenure in KwaZulu-Natal, it has widened to include urban and rural tenure issues across the country so that the range and diversity of functional and dysfunctional tenure arrangements can be better understood.
Leap works in collaboration with partners, including the LRC, who have long-term relationships with urban and rural communities. Leap team members are based in a variety of organisations and it has a Steering Committee - also drawing in people from different institutions and organisations, including LRC - to engage with the strategic direction given to the work.
Leap developed its work using the practice of establishing a number of partnerships, which have provided a basis across a range of situations and enabled work to grapple within this diversity and complexity. It has also provided for structured cross-project learning, collective analysis of tenure practice and policy and to use these to develop future options for governance.
Community Agency for Social Enquiry (C A S E) is an independent South African Research NGO, focusing on socio-economic and policy research in support of social and economic justice. The LRC collaborates with C A S E on our Rural Women's Action Research project.