At their joint summit in Braamfontein on Thursday, the EFF and Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa), committed to work together and host a land summit within the next few months.
Contralesa now says it broadly agrees with the EFF’s policy on land expropriation without compensation, though it is clear there will be a lot of devil in the detail, since the EFF wants the state to be the sole custodian of land, while Contralesa would like land that is already in the hands of black people, especially tribal land overseen by chiefs and kings, to be treated differently. Exactly how this will pan out remains to be seen.
Contralesa secretary-general Zolani Mkiva said they would want to see the EFF’s manifesto reflecting how it would treat tribal land administered by traditional leaders.
He made it clear that Contralesa continues to back King Goodwill Zwelithini’s claim over tribal land that used to make up the Zululand homeland under apartheid, since “the land under administration in the Ingonyama Trust is the land under the administration of black people … it is not stolen land”.
He said Contralesa had “closed the door” to the EFF on even discussing taking away land already in the hands of black people through expropriation without compensation.
“We want to be clear that we want the focus of the discussion about expropriation to be on the 87% stolen land.” He was referring to a disputed report that 87% of private land in South Africa is owned by white people.
Mkiva said Contralesa would leave the details to politicians, but “our main concern is that our land is restored to us as the rightful owners. The wealth is entrenched in the land. Without land, we are still not free.”
On why Contralesa had spent so much time talking to the EFF, Mkiva said: “We see them as a party that is growing, that is calling the shots in certain instances, and we are forced to engage with them, whether we like it or not.”
The president of Contralesa added they had been comfortable to meet with the EFF because the party had never insulted them by calling them “tin-pot dictators”, in a reference to former president Kgalema Motlanthe of the ANC. Motlanthe told parliament that traditional leaders administered land like “tin-pot dictators” and his high-level panel report called for the Ingonyama Trust Act to be repealed.
The EFF did little at the press conference to counter Contralesa’s demands, instead appearing to go out of its way to appease the chiefs. It maintained that its position is that all land should be expropriated and put in the care of the state, which will then issue leases to those who wish to use the land for whatever purpose.
EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu made concessions, though, saying the party would be willing to consider that the Ingonyama Trust should continue as is, as long as it is constitutional.
The party’s position had formerly put it at loggerheads with King Zwelithini, whose custodianship of tribal land in KwaZulu-Natal (30% of the province) is guaranteed under the KwaZulu Ingonyama Trust Act of 1994, which became law shortly before the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. The adoption of the act saw the Inkatha Freedom Party agree to be on the ballot paper at the last minute.
There were fears at the time that if the Zulu nation would not agree to be part of the new democratic dispensation and choose to retain its Zulu homeland, it would lead to major civil unrest and even war.
Although Shivambu questioned how the Ingonyama Trust Board currently operated, by leasing out the land it oversees and making profits from rentals – making R100 million or more – he said there needed to be a discussion about the role of royal families in relation to land and more understanding of what the Ingonyama Trust does.
EFF leader Julius Malema also attempted to downplay concerns around the Zulu king declaring that he would not allow the Ingonyama Trust to be interfered with. Zwelithini went as far as to threaten that he and his nation would leave South Africa and re-establish the Zulu homeland.
Malema said a rally by the Ingonyama Trust yesterday should be viewed as a “contribution to the ongoing discourse that is currently taking place in the country”; he welcomed the king’s actions and wished for further engagement.
“Why must it be a problem when the king speaks?”
Malema attempted to contrast this with what he said were the alleged aggressive views of other land owners, particularly white ones, as, “We have actually heard worse because we have some people threaten to kill us if we touch their land. They have made these claims unapologetically and we have not gone against them because all these are contribution to a robust debate in a democratic South Africa.”
He said he was still to meet a white person who agreed with expropriation without compensation, and even homeless white people were concerned the EFF would destroy the economy. However, he said South Africa would not go the Zimbabwe route, as the process in this country was happening in a consultative, constructive manner.
Some on Twitter were, however, quick to attempt to jog Malema’s memory.
Critics have warned that families in tribal areas stand the constant risk of being dispossessed of their land at any time and for reasons that do not favour them, including when mining companies or other investors conclude deals with traditional leaders that favour them and not communities.
Motlanthe wants them issued with title deeds.