Scrap amakhosi system, say communities

2010-11-05 00:00

RURAL community members launched a blistering attack on the amakhosi leadership yesterday, calling for their chieftainships to be abolished because it puts communities under strain and places them under heavy financial burdens.

The community members were speaking at a workshop to look at the laws affecting the status, power and roles and functions of traditional leaders, hosted by the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra), the Rural Women’s Movement and other organisations at the Midlands Community College.

Afra land rights co-ordinator Thabo Manyathi said the workshop was aimed at enlightening rural communities about the law and their rights, especially with regard to land.

He said that as a land rights organisation, Afra has become increasingly concerned not only with the level of ignorance in the rural communities but also with certain laws being planned that will increase the hardship experienced by many rural communities.

Among the proposed laws is the Traditional Courts Bill.

“We believe this bill will take away the rural people’s customary rights,” he said.

“As it stands now, the bill will give too much power to the local amakhosi; their powers will be equivalent to those of a magistrate.”

Manyathi said if passed, the bill will give the amakhosi powers to impose heavy fines including hard labour.

He said Afra is also concerned that the communities were not consulted when the bill was being drafted.

Community members said most of the amakhosi live on the back of impoverished communities.

“There are unending levies with the amakhosi; we pay and pay,” said Maria Mabaso of Vryheid.

Among the hardships the communities identified were that they are expected to contribute to the bride price of the chiefs, paying for their children’s tertiary education, buying vehicles for them and just paying a fee for living on “their” land.

Under the amakhosi, women are still the most oppressed, said one community member. “We cannot even buy land because we are women, and we have to recruit a male relative to buy it on our behalf.”

Irene Khumalo of Umtshezi said, “In some cases, you find that the inkosi has a criminal charge pending that has nothing to do with his leadership or the community and needs a lawyer; he will collect that money from the community.”

The community members labelled the amakhosi system outdated.

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