Letters to the editor: March 16 to 22

Don’t trust Ingonyama

It is almost 24 years since the dawning of democracy but for many poor South Africans, particularly in rural areas, the promise of freedom has been spoiled by the terrible deprivation of land rights by the Ingonyama Trust. The cruellest irony is that the Constitution’s section 25 (1) grants that no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property. Unfortunately, things are very different for people who live under traditional leadership in KwaZulu-Natal, “When a king turns on his subjects”.

What went wrong? Why were these poor South Africans left to be subjects of a two-tier system of governance. Is it democratic for citizens in a constitutional democracy to be subjected to traditional leadership?

The Ingonyama Trust was created on the eve of democracy. King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the land — about three million hectares to govern on behalf of the “Zulu people”.

There were certainly winners and losers in this agreement. White farmers on or near this rural land get to keep their title, while Zwelithini pockets millions of rands from rentals of land under the trust’s administration.

Yet the poor, who are supposed to benefit from their ancestral land, are made to believe keeping the land under the control of the Ingonyama Trust is for the protection of their heritage and culture.

Here is the reason those claims are not true.

Traditionally, land was always held in trust for the benefit of the entire community. There was always an element of acknowledging individuals as equal human beings in a community.

The second element is that every decision was made by means of consultation, discussion and consensus. The democratic guidelines for governing communal land required that no one person dictated to others, including minorities.

The idea of ubuntu, “umuntu Umuntu ngabantu”, is roughly translated as “I am because of others”. And the role of traditional leader is to serve or lead the nation.

Their authority over land is affirmed by the people, therefore we say “inkosi inkosi ngabantu” translated as “a king is a king thorough his/her people”, not by ownership of land.

It is not the nature of a communal trust that an individual becomes the sole custodian of land. Even if he holds a superior position, such as that of king, the land remains the people’s. Individuals have sole custody over their private properties, and this where family culture (isiko) is applicable.

A report by the high-level panel on the assessment of key legislation has found that people under the Ingonyama Trust are more vulnerable to dispossession. They can be denied customary rights over their ancestral land, and traditional leaders have the sole authority to sign agreements with investors on the use communal land.

It is for these reasons that it is undemocratic for citizens of a constitutional democracy to be subjected to traditional leadership that deprives them of the benefits and rights of their ancestral land. — Minenhle Mbandlwa, Doshisha University, Japan

■ The Zulu king is mobilising his subjects to each donate R5 for him to defend his land. This after former president Thabo Mbeki correctly removed Jacob Zuma as his deputy, the Friends of Jacob Zuma collected R50-million to fund his legal case and to sustain the lifestyle of his family and concubines.

Still, today, no one has accounted for how each cent was used. In delaying his hours, days, weeks and months in court, Zuma abused the public purse by appealing each verdict against him.

To appease King Goodwill Zwelithini, the Ingonyama Trust was created in 1994 over the former KwaZulu homeland. There is no such trust in any of the other former homelands. The land that falls under the trust is part of the 13% owned by Africans following the 1913 and 1914 Land Acts.

A call for Zulus to donate R5 is just money-laundering.

The king has never called for our people to be given title deeds, which is in line with the Freedom Charter. South Africa is a unitary state, a republic, not a kingdom. The ANC, as a matter of principle, should have rejected the Ingonyama Trust.

The R5 call must be challenged by the ANC and the mayors of rural municipalities, because those in rural areas deserve to get full ownership of the land, rather than being “serfs”. We must also call upon the isiZulu media writing one side of the Ingonyama Trust story to desist.

If a referendum was called to decide whether those living on Ingonyama Trust land want title deeds or the trust, I am sure many would vote for title deeds. Zulus are not a “super-tribe”. We Zulus are not a nation but a tribe like all tribes. We are part of the South African nation. We must not donate R5 to defend an apartheid arrangement that contradicts the Freedom Charter. — Siyanda Mhlongo, KwaDukuza

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