This editorial introduces a part-special issue in the Journal of Southern African Studies, on which I have worked for a few years with fellow guest editors Catie Gressier and Bob Hitchcock. It has its origins in the first international conference of POLLEN, the global Political Ecology Network (http://politicalecologynetwork.com/), named ‘Political Ecologies of Conflict, Capitalism and Contestation’ (PE-3C), at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, in July 2016. Catie, Bob and myself collaborated in a full-day panel called ‘The Political Ecology of Belonging and Indigeneity under Neoliberal Capitalism’. The introduction has a strong focus on Namibia and South Africa, but is relevant for Southern Africa more generally. The special issue’s focus on indigenous people in relation to land and nature are complemented by analyses of other, ‘non-indigenous’ groups (although of course, it always remains debatable who is and who is not indigenous). And with recent developments in Zimbabwe and South Africa, land and nature continue to be crucial elements in contemporary political contestations.