Ingonyama Trust debate rages: ‘The land needs to go back to the people’

As political temperatures rise in KwaZulu-Natal around the proposed scrapping of the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) not all traditional leaders in the province appear to be opposing the granting of land tenure to rural communities. 

Inkosi Mabhudu Tembe, head of the AmaThonga clan at KwaNgwanase in the Mhlabuyalingana district in the far north of the province, believes that tenure should be returned to communities through the traditional authorities. Tembe, who gave testimony before Parliament’s high level panel headed by former president Kgalema Motlanthe around obstacles to tenure for rural people, believes however that the consultative process had been flawed and that further engagement is needed. 

The ITB, in response to the panel report, has mobilised amakhosi to oppose it, hosting several events at which its findings have been rejected. Last week it was ordered by Parliament to stop converting residential permission to occupy certificates into leases until further consultation with all the parties involved has taken place.

Tembe said the ITB’s role had only been envisaged as holding the land in trust during the transition from apartheid and that tenure should have been restored more than 20 years ago.

‘’When the Ingonyama Trust was established in 1994, it was set up to protect the land because we did not know what would happen in the democratic dispensation. There is a clause that says after the democratic dispensation, land will come back to the individual traditional authorities, and through the traditional authorities, to the communities. That never happened,’’ Tembe said.

Tembe, whose community is host to the Tembe Elephant Park and a number of other game parks and coastal resorts, said he and other amakhosi had been lobbying for the ITB to ensure that ‘’title deed comes to each and every traditional authority.’’

‘’We are not happy with what has been going on. They never fulfilled this agreement,’’ he said.

Tembe said the panel had erred in their consultative process in that they took ‘’complaints by individual communities’’ to represent a pattern of behaviour by the ITB and amakhosi.

‘’The commission process should have been more thorough,’’ Tembe said.

‘’Even with all that has been mentioned, at the end of the day the community has to have their land back,’’ Tembe said.

Tembe said the panel report and the ANC’s resolutions at Nasrec had made it clear there was a need to scrap the ITB, which controls the 3 million hectares of rural land on behalf of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

‘’The government wants to give land back to the community. Everybody feels that the land should be given back to the people. It should be given to the traditional authority. Then we have to give it to the individual people,’’ he said.

The ITB has been ordered by Parliament to stop its programme to have rural people convert their existing permission to occupy certificates into leases while the process is investigated. The ITB takes in around R90 million annually from commercial leases, which it can legally grant with approval from the traditional authority in each area. 

Tembe said that the granting of leases in his community was done ‘’very strictly.’’

Tembe’s area, while poor, borders the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and is under increasing pressure by applicants for business leases.

Tembe said that as far as he was aware, the ITB had only issued leases after consultation with the traditional authority, which had to sign separate consent forms.

Applicants had to have the approval of the community and the area induna before their bid was considered. They needed to appear in person and go through a screening process, Tembe said.

‘’We are very thorough. We cannot just sign anyhow,’’ he said.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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