Rich land drives claims

Serjeant at the Bar ("Traditional law denies rights”, March 28) brings attention to a landmark case involving the right of independent or putatively independent ethnic factions in effect to make a unilateral declaration of independence from traditional authorities that have hitherto sought to control their affairs. The legal implications (despite the dissenting views of two of the Constitutional Court justices) are significant for many traditional communities, and especially those in the "platinum belt” of North West.

But the Serjeant omits crucial aspects of the context of this legal challenge. Principally, this concerns the motives of the community (the baKgatla baKautlwana), which wants to secede from the wider authority of the baKgatla baKgafela under the authoritarian chief Nyalala Pilane and constitute themselves as a separate Motlabe tribal authority.

These desires appear to have a deep material basis. The farm on which many of them live, Witkleifontein, is known to be platinum-bearing but it is subject to a land claim — which the baKautlwana argue excludes them — lodged by Pilane in the name of the baKgafela.

In 2011 court papers, the baKautlwana argued that they have an interest not only in the land claim for Witkleifontein but also in respect of two other farms, Rhenosterkraal and Welwewaght, which they assert were purchased with contributions from their former kgosi, Kautlwana, and a number of his followers in 1911 and 1926 respectively.

The baKautlwana conclude that "baKgatla interests in platinum are on properties where we live … but despite this our village is extremely poor and undeveloped … We do not see any of this money and how it is used.”

Another complaint is that proceeds from infrastructure they developed on the land, including three schools, a clinic and a community hall, had all gone into the coffers of Pilane's baKgatla at Saulspoort.

Thus the distribution of proceeds from possible royalties and other financial deals seems to lie at the heart of the matter, as much as the exercise of any constitutional rights. The timing of this (and other) challenges to frequently authoritarian traditional leadership is significant: they have all occurred or in some cases been revived during the platinum "revolution” of the past 20 years. The state has acknowledged the right of these traditional authorities to profit from mining on land they control, hence the issue of ownership is crucial. – Andrew Manson, Mafikeng

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Advertising

Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread
Advertising

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday