Sipho Mabena
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
7 Jun 2019
6:15 am

‘Bantustan Bill’ has lobby groups hot under the collar

Sipho Mabena

Among their charges are that the Bill will rekindle apartheid geography and is being used to promote land grabbing by mining companies.

Image: iStock

The Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill will not only give chiefs control over land, but will also strip former Bantustan communities of their citizen and property rights and rekindle apartheid geography.

Once signed into law, the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill will allow chiefs to do as they please with land, without consent from the people.

This means a chief could sign over land to private people, international corporates and mining companies without the consent of the people directly affected.

The Land and Accountability Research Centre (Larc) said the Bill sought to revive apartheid and colonial Bantustan laws governing citizenship, land and the property rights of rural communities, by turning its people into subjects dependent on the benevolence of traditional authorities.

These are key reasons Larc and other civil society organisations reject the Bill, which was passed by parliament in February and is currently awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature to make it law.

Larc is one of several organisations, grouped under the Alliance for Rural Democracy, behind the pushback campaign that saw a march to the Union Buildings on Wednesday, demanding that Ramaphosa completely overhaul the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) and not sign the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill into law.

The alliance’s spokesperson, Zukiswa White, said they will not sit back and watch the reversal of over 362 years of struggle and sacrifice by the South African majority black population, who fought to defeat colonialism and apartheid.

“This Bill, if signed into law, will signal a spit in the face of the legacy of resistance and communities which have continued, post-1994, to speak truth to power against the loss of sovereignty,” she said.

Thunyane Duda, Larc researcher, explained that the Bill, dubbed the “Bantustan Bill”, will “re-entrench apartheid geography” because traditional leaders have jurisdiction in the former Bantustan areas.

“The problem is, when the Bantustan borders were drawn, people were forcibly removed and dispossessed of their land and even today people still contest the legitimacy of traditional leaders.

“Remember, chiefs that were not compliant with the apartheid system were deposed and replaced by the compliant, who were then rewarded by being given more land,” he said.

Duda said as a result, people did not recognise these traditional leaders or their jurisdiction over them and that some communities did not have traditional authorities, yet this Bill would force them to be subjects of a chief.

He said the most worrying part was that the Bill, which will affect at least 17 million people in the former homelands, sought to trump the existing piece of legislation protecting rural communities’ land consent rights, the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights, passed in 1996.

This is the legislation on which the Maledu judgment, made in the Constitutional Court, as well as the Xolobeni judgment, made by the High Court in Pretoria, was based. The judgments upheld the community’s right around prior consent, the right to say no and ruled that deals brokered between mining houses and traditional leaders without the consent of those directly affected, infringed on people’s constitutional rights.

“It means we will have two systems of law. If you live in the former Bantustan, you are a subject of a traditional leader, meaning you do not have access to constitutional rights. But if you live in an urban area, you have access to constitutional rights,” Duda said.

Bench Marks Foundation, a social/ economic justice lobby group, said government was both sneaky and deceptive with the Bill.

“It is a government Trojan horse being used to promote the interests of big business and tribal authorities, and land grabbing by mining companies,” said executive director John Capel.

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