Editorial: Trust government to put politics first

Among the resolutions on land passed by the governing ANC at it 45th national conference in December 2017 was an undertaking to address obstacles to security of tenure of people living in areas under communal control.

The resolution, passed alongside those undertaking to expedite the process of land redistribution, said the ANC would “accelerate the rolling out of title deeds to black South Africans in order to guarantee their security of tenure and to provide them with instruments of financial collateral”.

Further, the ANC government would introduce legislation and programmes, which would “democratise control and administration of areas under communal land tenure”. The resolutions on communal land were significant, not least for the residents of 2.8-million hectares of KwaZulu-Natal held in trust on behalf of King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu since 1994.

The ANC had formally undertaken to address the continued operation of the Ingonyama Trust, 25 years after the end of apartheid. In the National Assembly, ANC representatives of the land reform portfolio committee — which exercises oversight of the trust — have, since 2018, helped hold the entity to account over dysfunctional governance and the millions of rands generated by its controversial lease programme.

That lease programme is the subject of a legal challenge by NGOs and a group of residents of trust land, which will be heard in the Pietermaritzburg high court in March.


In 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa began discussions about Parliament’s high-level panel on assessment of key legislation, appointed by his predecessor, to assess legislative obstacles to the improvement of quality of life of South Africans. The panel recommended that the legislation enabling the existence of the trust be reviewed, or repealed, and replaced with a system of tenure for residents.

The panel report was rejected by the monarch, whose supporters threatened civil unrest and a boycott of the ANC at the polling booth in 2019 should control of the land be taken away from the trust. That backlash saw Ramaphosa meet the monarch in 2018 to reassure him that the trust was not under threat from his administration.

In September 2018, Ramaphosa appointed a presidential advisory panel on land reform to assist the work of the inter-ministerial committee tasked with accelerating the process. This panel also recommended that the trust’s enabling legislation be repealed or reviewed and the body itself be dissolved.

In December, Agriculture and Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza announced that most of the advisory panel’s recommendations had been accepted, and those about the trust would be dealt with further down the line as part of land reform generally.

On Wednesday, Cabinet began a planning session aimed at streamlining its work for the year in terms of priorities set out by the governing party’s national executive committee lekgotla earlier this month.

The lekgotla report — which outlines the priority programmes for the party and government for 2020 — identifies the continued lack of access to security of tenure on communal land as a barrier to land reform, but fails to identify it as a priority. The issue has been returned to the back burner, where it has stewed for the past quarter century.

The failure of government to accept the recommendations of the two panels — and of the governing party to identify security of tenure on communal land as a priority for the next year — are clear indications that neither is prepared to risk a further conflict with the monarch, or further electoral losses in KwaZulu-Natal, ahead of next year’s local government poll.

Political expediency has trumped principled action, once again.

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.

Related stories

Infrastructure key to economic recovery — Ramaphosa

The governing party wants localisation at the centre of its infrastructure-led strategy

Politicians must be held accountable

Endless, toothless internal integrity committees are not the way out of corruption

Government misses the mark on the recovery plan

Government, labour, business and community have come up with a combined economic recovery plan amidst three others to help kickstart the economy. Some are new, while others are old and falter in not taking into account the ‘new normal’

SA must fix its ‘dop system’

The Covid-19 lockdown has exposed the effects of South Africa’s weak alcohol regulations. Government and health campaigners want tougher policies, but the liquor giants are pushing back

Dancing on the grave of Covid?

Lay low for now as lockdown lifts to level one and let’s Jerusalema when the long arm of the law reaches Luthuli House
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Meyiwa murder case postponed amid drama in court

The murder case of Senzo Meyiwa has been postponed to next month after the appearance of the five suspects in the Boksburg magistrate’s court took an unexpected turn

Does the Expropriation Bill muddy the land question even further?

Land ownership and its equitable distribution has floundered. Changes to a section of the constitution and the expropriation act are now before parliament, but do they offer any solution?

Wheeling and dealing for a Covid-19 vaccine

A Covid-19 jab could cost hundreds of rands. Or not. It’s anyone’s guess. Could another pandemic almost a century ago hold clues for handling the coronavirus today?

The European companies that armed the Ivorian civil war

AN OCCRP investigation reveals that Gunvor and Semlex brokered weapons-for-oil deals in early 2011 when Côte d’Ivoire was in crisis, despite a UN arms embargo
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday