Eastern Cape traditional leaders have warned that they will die fighting to protect their communal land.
“If there is anyone who is going to come and take this land by force, he or she will face fierce resistance,” Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairperson Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyane said on Saturday.
He was speaking at the funeral of the late AmaMpondo aseNyandeni Queen mother Fikelephi Bhongolethu Ndamase.
Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral, mainly traditional leaders from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and eSwatini, and senior ANC officials.
Nonkonyane said they took serious exception to comments made by former president Kgalema Motlanthe and Deputy President David Mabuza during an ANC land summit recently.
“We are reacting to the statement that has been made by Kgalema and, to a certain extent, by the deputy president in Parliament, suggesting that part of the programme to take land without compensation is to take land from traditional leadership.
“We started the national democratic revolution in the 16th century.
They would defend their land in the memory of Queen Bhongolethu and many kings and queens that had died for it.
He said it was important to mention the contentious issue of the land at her funeral because she had stood firm for the institution of traditional leaders.
Cooperative Governance Minister Zweli Mkhize represented President Cyril Ramaphosa at the event. He said there was never talk that land under the control of traditional leaders would be taken from them.
“The discussion is about how to represent land ownership in communal land. This issue is a separate matter from the expropriation of land.”
He said expropriation related to 87% of land in commercial hands or belonging to farmers and state-owned entities. The issue is how such land will be distributed.”
Mkhize said there was great hunger for land among black South Africans.
“It was the basis on which our struggle for liberation was fought. Land dispossession was the crux of decolonisation and, therefore, when this matter is discussed, it will always be emotive. What is important is for us to guide the discussion so that it focuses on how we solve land hunger.”
Queen Bhongolethu, as she was affectionately known, died at Mthatha’s Life St Mary’s private hospital from a diabetes-related illness last Thursday. She was 56.
She was the mother of current Western Phondoland King Ndamase Ndlovuyezwe Ndamase.
She acted as regent of the nation from 1997 while her son was completing his studies.
He ascended to the throne in 2008. The queen is the granddaughter of late king Sobhuza II of eSwatini. She was married to the late Nkosi Mabalengwe Ndamase.
“While we mourn her loss, we must thank her most profoundly for her generosity of spirit and teaching the nation humility, respect for human dignity and compassion for the weak, the poor and the downtrodden,” said ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayithobi.
She was buried at her home in Nyandeni Great Place in a provincial official funeral.
She is survived by her two sons, king Ndlovuyezwe and prince Bongumusa.