A royal threat to this country

2009-09-23 00:00

THE recent issue of increasing claims for tribal kingdoms can only be attributed to the onslaught of neocolonial policies that the government is pursuing. This treacherous beast is threatening to decimate our nation. It has crept into the fabric of the indigenous people’s communities and continues to engender chaos and mayhem. These policies are the brainchild of the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Leadership, which is in cahoots with the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims. Their objectives threaten the very concept of a rainbow nation and will leave behind a legacy of entrenched tribal fanaticism.

To start with, in a liberal democratic country with wide cultural diversity like South Africa, the idea of a monarchy is not a realistic one. It is an illusion that will reverse whatever small gains we have from the post-1994 dispensation. It will also serve as a breeding ground to reignite old tribal conflicts among the indigenous people. The signs are already there. In the past, the huge Xhosa tribe had two kingdoms — one in the house of Sigcawu and the other in the house of Sandile. With the recent “installation” of Fadana in the Western Cape, this once united block of the Nguni tribes has split into three trivial kingdoms. The mighty Zulu nation is also not immune to this predicament. The claims that have been lodged by a tribe within its monarchy to have a separate king from the one at KwaNongoma are cause for concern.

It seems as if our Constitution has made it possible for every Tom, Dick or Harry to coin history in order for him to be declared a king. All of a sudden, we are faced with a situation where every clan from every tribe will lay claim to its own kingdom. Who will be the subjects then? And there is no bigger fraud as having different monarchies within the same nation. The slight difference in language variations and dialects does not legitimise these opportunistic claims. If this was the identity we were in the struggle for, then we should not forget that the Nguni kingdom precedes all these kingdoms we are clamouring for (be it Xhosa, Zulu, etc.). As a matter of fact, these kings are as landless as the state, as are those people who have sworn allegiance to them. In view of the fact that a king is supposed to be a lawmaker, ours are dependent on mainstream politicians for the interpretation of the law.

In the main, the relationship between these kings and their subjects is parasitic. Whereas kings and their close associates yield huge benefits from being recognised by the people, it becomes detrimental to the well-being of the people when it comes to matching the gains with the development agenda of their communities. Even the celebrated colourful traditional festivals do not change the socioeconomic life of the people at grass-roots level. To a large extent, the revenue they generate only fills the coffers of business and a few elites, the royal family included. These “rulers” are showered with luxury gifts that have got nothing to do with changing the socioeconomic lives of their communities for the better. The kings are not much better than our fat cats in Parliament, who claim to be pro-poor, while they are actually cruising around in mobile five-star hotels. Added to that is the “willing buyer, willing seller” clause that is embedded in our land reform policy. This clause gives no guarantee of any chance of getting back the land that the kings allege to have owned in the past.

Something needs to be done sooner rather than later. The state has dug deep enough in the name of traditional leadership, while the majority of our population is despondent. Can there be a thing called culture and traditions for a landless society? Please stop these beasts from sucking our blood. People must work. Kingship just happens through accidental birth. The current claimants to the monarchy never contributed in the struggle, but only feed on the struggle credentials of their forefathers.

• MP Khwezi ka Ceza is a Durban-based freelance journalist and an independent researcher on sociopolitical issues.

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