This paper draws on research on the enforcement of the Land Act of 1979 in Lesotho. It seeks to show that illegal settlements occur under the shadow of formal state rules, from which social actors borrow selectively and in opportunistic ways to acquire urban property rights. This is possible because of inconsistencies and contradictions in state rules and enforcement methods. The paper argues that although formal state rules may appear to exclude ordinary urban residents from access to urban housing land, in reality, the contradictions and the contingent nature of the rules may support access to urban property rights, by a majority of urban residents, including the urban poor.
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