Amakhosi fight for their turf on land development applications

2015-07-02 18:25
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti (GCIS)

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Traditional leaders are demanding that the government suspends the implementation of a law that places municipal councils as the authorities of first instance in all land development applications.

The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act came into implementation yesterday, after it was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in August 2013.

But this morning, traditional leaders told Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti to suspend the implementation of this Act, and claimed to have never been “properly consulted” on it.

Traditional leaders were also wary that the new law would give municipal councils powers over the traditional institution, which is the “rightful owner of the land”.

Many parts of the country, especially in rural areas had no planning legislation – especially to deal with land development applications. This new law sought to address this.

The traditional leaders had invited Nkwinti to brief them on three land-related policies: Exceptions to 1913 Natives Land Act cut-off date, which would allow South Africans, particularly people of Khoi and San descent who lost land through land dispossession prior to 1913 to have access to land; the draft Exceptions Policy Framework, which sought to accommodate the descendants of the Khoi and the San, heritage sites and historical land marks; and the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act.

But in the engagements earlier today, one after the other, amakhosi focused on the spatial planning law and called for its suspension.

The law which provided a framework for spatial planning and land use management also provided for all land development applications to be submitted to a municipality as the authority of first instance.

It also sought to address past spatial and regulatory imbalances and to promote greater consistency and uniformity in the application procedures and decision-making by authorities responsible for land use decisions and development applications.

The legislation also provided for the establishment of Municipal Planning Tribunals, which would allow for the facilitation and enforcement of land use and development measures.

The meeting became heated as the speakers accused the ANC government of ignoring traditional leaders’ inputs in the formation of the law.

They specifically wanted chapter six of the Act to be removed.

This chapter stated that all land development applications must be submitted to a municipality as the authority of first instance. This section also called for the establishment of Municipal Planning Tribunals, which would determine land use and development applications within a municipal area.

Traditional leaders were unhappy about these proposals, and said that by giving such powers to municipal councils, the government was undermining amakhosi.

Nkwinti explained that this would be done in consultation with traditional leaders as “the de facto owners of the land”.

“The municipality [will] go to the traditional council and say: ‘let us discuss how we plan to use this land’.

“And that discussion, if we have not put in a law, which says this is how it should be done, we are ready to amend that law, to ensure that that is enforced,” he said.

He said the government had assumed that everyone knew that the de facto owner of the land in communal areas was the traditional institution.

“If it is not expressed in the law, and if you are of the view that we should do that, we have to do that,” he said.

He also explained that traditional leaders would be represented in the proposed Municipal Planning Tribunals.

But the Amakhosi would not hear any of that.

Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu, who is the deputy chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders told Nkwinti that they were worried and “some of us angry” that the implementation of the law went ahead.

“It touches on the land of the institution and it goes against what the minister has said. I am happy that the minister did say that, as the department, they are prepared to amend where we have concerns,” said Mahlangu.

He said traditional leaders felt that the “neoliberal structures”, which were always opposed to the traditional institution, were finding the ear of government and that their input and word found favour.

He also complained the traditional leaders’ inputs did not find any expression in the final version of the Act, and added that “we have a feeling that the consultation in most cases is done for the sake of compliance rather than for it to guide what government intends to do”.

Mahlangu pleaded with Nkwinti to “suspend” the implementation of the Act until amendments were made.

“We believe that there was no proper consultation, even the consultation that was done and the input that was made did not find expression in the Act.”

Other traditional leaders called for the law to be suspended, but also threatened to defy it, if the government continued with its implementation.
They also accused the government of previously passing laws to which traditional leaders were opposed, including the law legalising abortion.

Read more on:    gugile nkwinti  |  land

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