It’s ANC vs ANC as land ‘war’ looms

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government appears to be on a collision course with the national government about the latter’s intention to give land tenure to residents living on tribal-controlled land under the administration of the Ingonyama Trust Board.

The provincial government wants King Goodwill Zwelithini, the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, to maintain control of three million hectares of tribal land in the province, but the central government wants to scrap the board and introduce individual land tenure for rural communities.

Days after KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu apologised to Zwelithini for plans to scrap the trust, Deputy President David Mabuza made it clear that draft legislation before Parliament would enforce individual land tenure rights and not leave the control of this land with traditional leaders.

The premier wants to call his own provincial land summit and has accused Parliament’s high-level panel, which has recommended that the trust be scrapped, of undermining the king and failing to consult his government.

Mchunu last Friday distanced his administration and the ANC from comments by former president Kgalema Motlanthe — who heads the panel — at the recent ANC land summit and apologised to the Zulu monarch.

Motlanthe said that the land would no longer be controlled by chiefs who acted like “dictators’’. Mchunu has repeatedly stated that his administration would not support any moves that “undermine’’ the king and used last Friday’s address to slate Motlanthe for his comments.

At the same event, Zwelithini and traditional leaders from the province threatened “war’’ if the plan to give tenure to individual communities went ahead.

Mabuza, in response to questions in the National Assembly on Tuesday, said that the draft Communal Land Tenure Bill, which will go before Parliament in the near future, would end “conflicting views’’ that traditional land belonged to the chiefs. “Government is seeking to address this issue in a way that brings certainty,’’ Mabuza said. “The Communal Land Tenure Bill will ensure that.’’

The Ingonyama Trust was set up in 1994 to secure the participation of Zwelithini and Inkatha, as it was then known, in the first democratic elections. The monarch and Inkatha had been threatening to boycott the elections against a backdrop of escalating violence and increasing attacks on ANC supporters, and the Ingonyama Trust Act was signed in a bid to appease them.

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

The new Bill will undo this, as it allows for the transfer of communal land to communities and for security of tenure over land to be extended to the individuals living on it. Mabuza said that expropriation without compensation was not the only way to restore land to those who had been dispossessed under apartheid.

“It’s not only the land held in private hands … we have land that is under state ownership. That land is going to be expropriated and will be given to the people,’’ Mabuza said.

Mabuza’s comments reinforce the resolutions of the ANC national conference in December, in which the governing party decided that the current situation, in which traditional leaders have custodianship over trust land, should be scrapped and tenure given to residents.

The comments also contradicted the remarks earlier the same day by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, who took a similar line to Mchunu and distanced the party from Motlanthe’s comments, saying there was no final position on the Ingonyama Trust.

Mchunu’s spokesperson, Thami Ngidi, told the Mail & Guardian this week that the premier would push ahead with his plan for a parallel land summit. Ngidi said Mchunu believed the report from the high-level panel was neither a government nor an ANC recommendation.

“The report was commissioned by Parliament as part of a process to review legislation. These are the recommendations of a panel, not of a government department or of the state. There is a debate about what to do with the report,’’ Ngidi said. “No position has been taken as yet.’’

He said the report “came without any attempt of explanation or any official presentation.”

There was never any consultation. What the premier will do now is engage — to try and reduce the political temperature, to call the land summit and see what comes out of it.’’

Ngidi denied that the province was opposing the national government’s attempt to give land tenure to rural people. “I don’t think we can ever take an opposing position on land. I don’t think that is where we are going. People are going to be allowed to ventilate. We need our own summit to talk about these issues with everybody involved,’’ he said.

ANC MP Phumzile Mnguni, the deputy chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on land reform, said the issue of land restitution, including the fate of the Ingonyama board, would be decided at national level and not at provincial level.

“Land is an exclusively national area of competence. If there is a contradiction between a statement from a province and the national position, the national position prevails,’’ Mnguni said.

“The high-level panel is appointed by the National Assembly and its recommendations are being processed at National Assembly level. This is where any position will come from —the National Assembly.”

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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