Deputy President David Mabuza has added fuel to an already intense land debate by saying traditional leaders were merely custodians of the land and should stop exploiting customary rights for unscrupulous ends.
Responding to questions in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Mabuza acknowledged that the country’s Constitution made provision for communities or people whose tenure of land is legally insecure as a result of past racially motivated laws or practices to be granted tenure or redress.
Mabuza, however, added that the issues of insecure tenure sometimes emanated from “mistaken views that land under traditional leadership is owned by traditional leaders”, which he dismissed as a “false view”.
“In terms of custom it is the people who own the land; traditional leaders are only custodians of the people’s land,” said Mabuza.
This comes after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini issued a warning to the ANC on Saturday that calls for expropriation of land under traditional leaders was a clear provocation which would benefit neither the ruling party nor traditional leaders.
Zwelithini made the comments at a circumcision campaign in Durban in response to comments made by former president Kgalema Motlanthe who urged the ANC to pay as much attention to land tenure rights in rural areas as it would in the urban areas.
Motlanthe said “traditional leaders act like village tin-pot dictators” when it comes to the land question.
He made an example of the Ingonyama Trust, saying it was primarily to preserve the Zulu homeland but had now turned to a means of dispossessing people of their land.
“People who have lived there for generations must pay the Ingonyama Trust Board R1000 rent which escalates yearly by 10%,” said Motlanthe.
Motlanthe went on to say that “the ANC enjoys support from the people and not from traditional leaders”.
“Some traditional leaders support the ANC, but the majority of them are acting as village tinpot dictators to the people there,” he said.
“The people had high hopes the ANC would liberate them from all these confines of the homeland systems, but clearly now we are the ones who are saying the land must go to traditional leaders and not the people.”
On Tuesday, Mabuza said to rectify this historical imbalance brought about by colonialism, apartheid and the “mistaken view” that traditional leaders own land, the ANC sought to make it clear that the land under the custodian of traditional leaders belonged to the people.
He also said it will not only be land held in private hands, but also state-owned land that will be expropriated.
“We've got land that is under the ownership of the state. Different departments are holding land, as are municipalities,” he told the House.
“That land is going to be expropriated and given to the people, not just to lie on the land; these people must work the land.
“Government is going to assist those people to work the land. That is going to happen.”
Meanwhile, as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, Mabuza had to answer tough questions on the ANC’s strides toward alleviating HIV/Aids as well as TB.
Mabuza said the government had embarked on collaborative work with the National House of Traditional Leaders through the SA National Aids Council, which had seen greater awareness on the topic among ordinary South Africans.
The EFF’s Ntombovuyo Mente enquired on why there were continued delays around HIV testing and getting anti-retroviral medication.
Mabuza replied that there should be no delays particularly in testing and giving South Africans their results since the “diagnosis of HIV is made using a rapid diagnostic test” which meant that in “15 minutes a patient can be informed if they are HIV positive and offered treatment”.
Mabuza also expressed concern that TB – “a curable disease” – was claiming more lives than any other disease in the country.
He called on South Africans to end the stigma surrounding the disease and to come forward and get tested.
Mabuza will be delivering the annual address to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Thursday.
- Additional reporting by News24