Traditional leaders warn Parliament: Don’t touch our land

The National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) has told Parliament that while they support land expropriation without compensation, the 13% of land owned by traditional leaders must remain in their hands.

It was the third day of land hearings in Parliament and traditional leaders were clear on what they wanted: they support proposed amendments to section 25 of the Constitution, but not if it meant that land owned by traditional authorities would also be expropriated.

Nkosi Sipho Mahlangu, the chairperson of the NHTL, made a submission before MPs suggesting that the land — which is held in a trust by the rural development minister — should instead be transferred to traditional communities as a form of security of tenure. He proposed that the communities, along with their traditional councils, would then decide how the land should be divided.

But it was Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, the chairperson of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, who gave MPs a warning that if the 13% was expropriated, then the threat of violence may loom.

“We want you to be sensitive to this, please, we don’t want to really take up arms to defend the 13%, because you are our democratic government and we put you there. We trust that you do that. Please, don’t turn the spear to us,” Nonkonyana said.

Nonkonyana was answering questions from MPs after Mahlangu concluded the NHTL’s submission to Parliament. He said that if land owned by traditional authorities was expropriated and owned by government, then it would be almost as bad as the land being in the hands of colonists.

“It’s unfortunate our government has the following system of governance. You are successors to colonialists. Perhaps, we didn’t make it crystal clear. We must make it very crystal clear. That is the reason why … we are saying Chapter 7 and Chapter 12 of the Constitution need to be revisited. [It is] because you are biased, because it is a western system of governance,” Nonkonyana said

“If you say that we must take the 13% of our land to you, you are saying we must take it back to the successors of colonialists — yourselves. By extension, you are undermining what our ancestors did …. There have been wars here of resistance. The 13% was a legacy left by our forebears. How can we then give it back to you?,” he continued.

Chapter 7 of the Constitution deals with local government, while Chapter 12 sets out the constitutionality of traditional leaders. The NHTL added in their submission to Parliament that both should be revised.

But already the traditional leaders have been guaranteed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Zweli Mkhize that their land would not be affected by land reform amendments if they are made to the Constitution.

The leaders at Parliament assured MPs that their communities were treated well on the land they held, but there have been concerns from community members that the leaders do not always act in the interests of their communities.

Friday marks the final day of the hearings in Parliament. 

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

Related stories


Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

R2.3bn VBS trial expected to only begin in 2022

The state is expected to request a 16 week-long trial, as delays stymie progress in the saga.

Spy boss tells how agency was used to detain Zuma’s...

Day two of State Security Agency testimony at the Zondo commission birthed more revelations that point to the former head of state and agents breaking the law

Covax will take excess doses of Covid vaccines off the...

The global initiative plans to deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to developing nations

Eastern Cape citizens don’t have to visit the labour department...

This measure, aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, may shortly be introduced in other regions.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…