Transparency required from Ingonyama Trust

2012-10-15 00:00

THE issue of ownership of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home raises important questions about the existence and functioning of the Ingonyama Trust Board.

This legislation appears clearly unconstitutional since it discriminates against Zulu-speakers in this province as opposed to those who speak other languages. It essentially privatises all the land which had been part of KwaZulu, together with other state land which had not been transferred to the homeland by April 1994. This transfer was rationalised in terms of Zulu indigenous law, which is an artificial construct. Unlike other customary law, it was codified by the colonial government for purposes of controlling the indigenous population.

For reasons best known to itself, the national government has not only failed to dismantle this legislation, but actually opposed a public interest court action destined for the Constitutional Court to have it declared unconstitutional. Nor did the Communal Land Rights Act to which Mario Oriani-Ambrosini refers repeal this act, despite repealing other land-related legislation passed by other homelands.

The powers of the board to grant leases have proven to be problematic for members of some communities headed by traditional leaders. Just over 10 years ago, a local leader at Mbazwane and his business associates were given a lease over land occupied by his subjects to run a private game reserve. A number of people who were living on the land were forcibly removed, and it was fenced off. I witnessed people, including an elderly woman, having to climb a high fence to access their homesteads. People suffered abuse at the hands of the police, who were colluding with the leader, when they tried to harvest their ilala palm crops. The Ingonyama Board did not revoke the lease, despite the conditions under which it had been given having clearly been breached.

Currently, Mangete land claimants are trying to ascertain the status of Wangu, an area of Macambini (near Mandeni) to which they were removed from the privately owned Dunn descendant farms in the seventies. Wangu was then not part of Macambini, but was incorporated into the reserve area some years ago without their being informed. Their right to this land is clearly indicated in documentation from the time of the removals, and in court papers, yet they have been told that the local traditional leader has been given a lease on it by the board. I am assisting them in their attempts to ascertain the veracity of this report. Co-incidentally, this leader is a member of the Ingonyama Trust Board. Due to mismanagement, he and others have been removed by the Master’s Office as trustees of the Bhekamafa Trust established when the Mangete land claim was settled.

It seems that decisions may be taken by the board without the knowledge of those who are most affected. Given the destabilising potential of land-related issues, I believe that there is a need for stringent oversight, and full transparency, relating to all Ingonyama Board activities.

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