President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza have come out to assure King Goodwill Zwelithini and other traditional leaders that land under their control is not under threat of expropriation.
Ramaphosa hastily cancelled meetings in KwaZulu to meet Zwelithini on Friday after the king’s ominous threats based on his concern about what would happen to the Ingonyama Trust.
Faced with threats of violence and a voter boycott next year, Ramaphosa has gone out of his way to say that 13% of land occupied by black people would not be under threat of expropriation.
“We discussed the issue and assured the king that neither government nor the ANC has any intention whatsoever in taking the land from the trust. We reaffirmed that land under the Ingonyama Trust, as per legislation, is held on behalf of the people of KwaZulu-Natal. We gave assurance that there was no intention to even touch that land or grab it,” Ramaphosa said yesterday in the province’s KwaDukuza.
He said there would be much deeper engagements at a later stage – and emphasised the ANC had a duty to listen to all concerned.
At the same event KwaZulu-Natal ANC convener Mike Mabuyakhulu welcomed Ramaphosa’s “swift” intervention, saying the confusion about the future of the Ingonyama Trust and the role of tradition leaders had been used for cheap politicking.
As a response to what was considered an insult by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, who referred to traditional leaders as tinpot dictators, lobby group RET (radical economic transformation) champions, threatened to campaign for KwaZulu-Natal to become an independent state.
Nkosentsha Shezi, RET Champions chairperson, said it was necessary for Ramaphosa to apologise.
“We congratulate the king and his entire kingdom, Amabutho and Amakhosi, for taking a strong and a bold revolutionary stance against the offensive white monopoly capital that has captured our leaders. This is a true signal that when 12 million Zulus unite across political party divisions, we can do more,” he said.
Shezi called on Motlanthe to humble himself and follow in Ramaphosa’s shoes and apologise, too.
ANC Youth League provincial chairperson Thanduxolo Sabelo said the position of the ANC had never been to expropriate land that belongs to black people.
He said the party would oppose any moves to make KwaZulu-Natal an independent state as suggested by the Zulu king.
Inside the party, senior leaders have bemoaned the disastrous handling of the contentious land issue, particularly where it affects traditional land ownership.
A senior ANC national executive committee (NEC) member said it was crucial for Ramaphosa to personally engage the Zulu king and other traditional leaders to avoid ambiguity.
An ANC NEC document from the May land redistribution workshop avoided the contentious matter by shifting it to a planned special summit on communal land, communal tenure and traditional systems.
The document, obtained by City Press, recommended that ANC public representatives who had constitutional powers to expropriate land should use the provisions so that the current law could be tested.
This would demonstrate to voters that the party had the political will to tackle the land issue.
Unused government land would be freed for development.
“The idea was that if problems were encountered, we could then consider amending the law,” said an NEC member.
In an interview, Mabuza told City Press the priority was the 87% fertile land that the former colonial and apartheid administration kept for themselves and their constituencies and not the barren 13% owned mostly by black people.
Mabuza said historically the ANC had not had a problem with traditional leaders being custodians of tribal land on behalf of the people and “we did not want to tamper with that because there were no issues”.
“But it looks now as if our people, some of them, say I can utilise my stand to do this and that. So, whether giving them a title in a rural area will help them is another thing, but our people must have a title [deed].”
But, said Mabuza, traditional leaders also raised a counterargument that title deeds open the door for banks to take the land and sell it to somebody else in cases where people use the property to access funds and fail to pay.
Such occurrences would set the government back in terms of land restitution and that was a debate the ANC took seriously because it did not want people to lose land.
Echoing Ramaphosa’s sentiments, Mabuza said the ANC was interested in the views of traditional leaders, “so let them speak and we will hear them”.
“Let us not be intimidated about what they feel because it makes us wiser if we consider the facts about what they are saying.
“I do not know why this time we want to undermine their voices as traditional leaders or push away their voices,” Mabuza said.
“You will remember from history that this land was taken away from them and some were killed by the invaders as they tried to defend it. Bambatha and Sekhukhune fought as kings and chiefs trying to defend their land and they were defeated.
An NEC member said questions should be raised on how seriously the Nasrec land resolution was being taken.
“There is a belief from some leaders in the ANC, that the Motlanthe panel was a strategy to try to dilute those inside and outside the ANC who were preaching Jacob Zuma’s RET agenda.
“Kgalema suddenly came out to say there is no need to amend the Constitution, then he raises this Ingonyama Trust issue in the manner in which he did. That insult is what is mobilising the Zuma people, including their chiefs, from various provinces.”
The revolt – especially from KwaZulu-Natal – is said to have been made worse by the belief that Ramaphosa endorsed Motlanthe’s report.
“If the ANC ignores that space, the ANC will suffer next year because traditional leadership will not vote for the party. So the ANC must take care of that space and try to manage the looming crisis.
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