It seem as if rural communities are speaking to a toy phone, no one is listening to their plight. The President’s statements during State of the Nation Address (SONA) and during the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) confirms, the President is definitely not listening.
Yesterday, the National Assembly passed the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill (Framework Amendment Bill). This Bill has the practical purpose of giving an extended legal legitimacy to apartheid-era Tribal Authorities (as defined by the apartheid government through the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951, not those necessarily recognised by communities). These undemocratic structures have failed to comply with the transitional requirements as prescribed in the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003 (TLGFA) and have undermined rural democracy in communities.
The Tribal Authorities affected by this Bill have had more than 14 years to transform into Traditional Councils, which requires that they become democratic with 60% of the total council nominated by the senior Traditional Leader, 40% elected representation from their communities, and 30% of members of the Traditional Councils to be made up of women, but have failed to do so. The net effect is that traditional communities living in rural South Africa have little say in how the land, natural resources and customary law is governed.
Why is this Bill so important to pass whilst there is the TKLB (Traditional and Khoi- San Leadership Bill) which will replace all other Traditional Leadership laws? In the public hearings held in the Khoi and San District of the Free State, the community asked the Free State Provincial legislature why Government is calling them to discuss the Framework Amendment Bill which is silent about the Khoi and San communities if it is serious about recognition of Khoi and San communities?
The reason is simple. The non compliance of Tribal Authorities to democratize themselves into Traditional Councils as prescribed by the TLGFA renders them illegal and so are the deals they have signed and decisions they have made. This Framework Amendment Bill is considered in conjunction with the TKLB and Traditional Courts Bill (TCB). It means that the Tribal Authorities, appointed by the apartheid government, will be able to sell out their local communities, sell mining rights to mining companies to exploit the land, while the local communities lose their land, homes, family graves, their environment is permanently damaged, without consultation and consent and they receive no benefit whatsoever. These communities are already facing expropriation of their land rights without any compensation.
This Bill paves the way for further exploitation of rural communities across South Africa. In particular, communities that have been fighting their exploitation such as the Xolobeni community in the Eastern Cape, the Makhasaneni community in KwaZulu Natal, Bakgatla ba Lesetlheng community and Bapong ba Mogale in Northwest, and Mapela Community in Limpopo.
Later this week it is likely we will see Parliament attempt to pass the TKLB. The controversial Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill which will allow for reopening of land claims is also on Parliament’s schedule. It is crucial that we must make our voice heard now, so that Parliament and the President cease their efforts to pass these unconstitutional laws. Join the fight to stop the re-bantustanization and re-dispossession of rural land and further marginalization of the already marginalized people in our country.
The Stop Bantustan Bill campaign website www.stopthebantustanbills.org was launched in November and has already thousands of signatures. This is living proof that many people who will be directly affected by these new laws are demanding that their voice be heard – they have a right to say NO!