Land management needs to be adapted to micro-level land tenure behavior, especially in customary/informal peri-urban areas. The focus of the paper is a case study and a framework for analyzing conflict and social change in peri-urban customary areas. An understanding of these issues is essential to land management in these areas. A 20-year history of Mgaga, an area south of Durban, South Africa, is presented, showing the evolving micro-level land tenure relationships which led to the development of an informal settlement on customary land. In 1959, the area was sparsely settled with scattered homesteads and a handful of kinship groups. By 1980, it was an informal settlement with over 5,000 people. A range of factors was responsible, including economic growth and urbanization in the region, as well as apartheid-based land use planning and urban management. However, development is also associated with the fact that the area was the nexus of three tribal wards belonging to competing headmen and their coalitions. The material presented is then used to create a rigorous framework for analyzing conflict and social change in land tenure systems under these conditions. The paper then shows how this framework has subsequently been used to design land titling approaches in Namibia, and for the development of land management approaches to informal settlement for a local government in South Africa.