PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
AND PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Ikosi Sipho Mahlangu;
Deputy Chairperson, Nkosikazi Nosandi Mhlauli;
Chairpersons and Members of the Executive Committees of the Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders of Bokone Bophirima, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape;
Chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust Board, Judge Jerome Ngwenya;
Deputy Minister of Labour, the Hon. Inkosi Sango Patekile Holomisa;
Members of the National and Provincial Houses;
Distinguished guests –
I appreciate the opportunity to address this Lekgotla on the crucial issue of land. The land debate is at the forefront of our national dialogue. It has been characterised by a good deal of fiery statements, divisive comments and insults, all of which underpin the depth of fear, frustration and anger around the issue of land.
When I add to this debate, I speak as a traditional leader who has served my people for more than six decades. I speak as the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, tasked with the duty of securing the recognition of my nation’s identity. I speak as a political leader who has fought for more than 24 years to have the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders enshrined in legislation, so that we might strengthen this vital institution within our democracy.
I speak also as the great grandson of King Cetshwayo who saw his Kingdom dismantled by foreign powers, and as the grandson of King Dinuzulu who was imprisoned and forced into exile. I speak with a great weight on my shoulders; the weight of all that has been sacrificed by our ancestors, by kings and traditional leaders, in our centuries’ long battle for liberation and identity. At the heart of this battle, is the issue of land.
A people’s identity and every aspect of their lives are tied to the land. This is a fact of human history, expressed again and again through wars and acts of patriotism. As far back as 431 BC, in Ancient Greece, Euripides stated, “There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land.” Dispossessed of their land, a people suffer physically, psychologically and spiritually. It is no coincidence that suicide is common among displaced people, as is family fragmentation, the loss of identity and the entrenching of dependency.
Our own ancestors recognised the value of land and its inextricable link to our identity. Thus the system of traditional leadership developed around the need to organise society in such a way that everyone would have access to the land they need to live, produce, thrive and raise a family. Traditional leaders administered the land according to indigenous and customary law, ensuring social justice and good governance.
Quite clearly, land is not only a resource for socio-economic development, but is also a heritage. It speaks of who we are and where we come from. It is the most valuable asset of a nation. Thus the 1913 Natives Land Act had devastating consequences. It ripped the soul from our people, dispossessing black South Africans of their homes, their fields, their livelihoods and their identity.
The birth of a democratic South Africa brought with it the righteous expectation that the wrongs of the past would be set right; that the land would be returned to the people, and that land would once again be used to achieve social justice and good governance.
However the land reform programme of our democratic Government has been painfully slow in implementation, resulting in rising tensions and an increasing demand for immediate action. We have now reached the point where the issue of land could well ignite violence in our nation. Indeed, already there have been land grabs driven by the call from the EFF for people to act illegally.
This goes against the stated intention of Government. In speaking about the policy of land expropriation without compensation, President Ramaphosa has been firm that land grabs will not be tolerated. Such action goes against the rule of law and is likely to result in violence.
But right now, we can only go on what is being said. There is no firm and detailed explanation from Government about how land expropriation will be done, which land will be taken, and how expropriated land will be administered. This lack of clarity opens the way for assumptions, accusations, uncertainties and conflict.
As the custodians of our people’s wellbeing and as the administrators of traditional land, traditional leaders have a vested interest in how land reform is handled. But are the views and contribution of traditional leadership influencing the debate? Is Government truly responsive to the role we play and the mandate we represent?
For more than two decades I have drawn attention to the thorny relationship between Government and the institution of traditional leadership, with the intention of resolving conflicts and creating an effective working partnership. I feel that the time has come, in my life at least, to issue a final warning to traditional leaders on what is undoubtedly a threat to the continued existence of this institution.
Let me therefore express this final call in a very frank manner.
During the ANC’s land summit last month, former ANC Secretary General and former Head of State Mr Kgalema Motlanthe spoke bluntly about traditional leadership. In a scathing attack, he called traditional leaders “village tinpot dictators”. Not a single leader in the ANC spoke up. No one contradicted Mr Motlanthe or called him to task. The fact is that this senior leader was voicing a long unstated position of the ANC.
As Chairperson of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change, Mr Motlanthe opened the call for land administered by traditional leaders to be taken away and placed under the ownership of Government, through the scrapping of the Ingonyama Trust Act. Effectively, the first land expropriated without compensation would be the land of traditional communities.
But the Panel’s recommendation to scrap the Ingonyama Trust Act simply expressed a policy decision already taken by the ANC. At its 5th National Policy Conference in July 2017, it was noted that “…the KZN ANC has been moving for the repeal of Ingonyama Trust”. This should sound a warning to us all.
The Act maintains under indigenous and customary law those few pieces of land remaining to the Zulu Kingdom following a century of colonialism and dispossession. It is one of the few legal constructs in which traditional leadership is afforded its rightful authority in our democratic dispensation.
If Government can scrap this Act and expropriate land administered by traditional leaders, we should not be surprised when it takes the next step in disempowering traditional communities.
During Questions to the Deputy President in Parliament on 29 May 2018, the Deputy President was confronted with Mr Motlanthe’s accusation that traditional leaders are “village tinpot dictators”. He failed to contradict this accusation, simply confirming that a draft Bill is in place to remove land that is administered by the very traditional leaders who have served and led our people for generations.
This is not only about land held under the Ingonyama Trust, but about all traditional land. During its 54th National Conference in December 2017, the ANC resolved to “Democratize control and administration of areas under communal land tenure.” How did they plan to do this? “Expropriation of land without compensation should be among the key mechanisms…”
This initiative against traditional leadership is not sudden or unexpected. It has a long history. The question is: How will we respond?
In November 2000, the imminent creation of wall-to-wall municipalities throughout South Africa created a serious threat to the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders.
While the Constitution recognises the institution of traditional leadership, it failed to enshrine the governance authority vested in traditional leaders. Legislation passed since 1994 has consistently failed to prescribe their role, powers and functions, opening the way for traditional leaders to be side-lined, ignored and dictated to when it comes to local government.
With the creation of municipalities, the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders could be wholly usurped.
As the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation, I and Nkosi Sango Patekile Holomisa, the Chairperson of CONTRALESA, worked together to raise this problem with our country’s leaders since the time of President Mandela.
Throughout the negotiations towards a democratic South Africa, I had championed the institution of the monarchy and traditional leadership, insisting that they be recognised.
The struggle for liberation had, after all, been waged first and foremost by kings and traditional leaders who fought colonial power in the Anglo-Zulu War. During the so-called territorial wars of the Eastern Cape the resistance of our people was led by kings and traditional leaders. And when the ANC was founded in 1912, it was founded by traditional leaders, who led our liberation struggle from the start.
I believed so strongly in the recognition of traditional leadership that I risked political suicide, withdrawing from the 1994 elections until a Solemn Promise was made that issues like the role of the monarchy would be addressed immediately after elections.
That promise was never fulfilled.
Thus I continued to fight for the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders to be enshrined in legislation. My fight was joined by traditional leaders from across South Africa who formed the Coalition of Traditional Leaders to engage with Government.
In November 2000, when the greatest threat to traditional leaders arose, representatives of the Coalition engaged with a Cabinet Committee led by then Deputy President Jacob Zuma to resolve the imminent threat. As a result, a commitment was made to the Coalition of Traditional Leaders that Chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution would be amended.
Again, that promise was broken.
Thus the Municipal Structures Act was allowed to erode the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders, taking away their local governance authority and placing it in the hands of government officials.
Nine years later, at a conference of traditional leaders from across Africa, President Zuma admitted that the commitment to amend the Constitution to prevent this from happening had never been implemented, because ‘the comrades’ didn’t want it; ‘the comrades’ being the ANC.
They wanted absolute power, even if it meant reducing traditional leaders to mere ceremonial figures.
When President Zuma was questioned about this in Parliament, he backtracked, saying that the commitment had really just been a recommendation. In response, I rose in Parliament to lament that our country was being led by deception.
Legislation passed since then has systematically reduced and limited the role of traditional leadership in the governance of traditional communities, to the extent that only a few traditional leaders are allowed to participate in municipal councils, their views need not be taken into account, and none of them may vote.
Bit by bit, traditional leaders have been disempowered. And now the final nail is being hammered into the coffin of traditional leadership with the call for expropriation of traditional land.
This is not a regional issue. It affects every traditional leader and every traditional community across South Africa.
I have the greatest respect for the institution of traditional leadership. I believe in the role and authority of our kings, and the recognition of our kingdoms. I recognise that these fundamental aspects of our identity are under attack. I therefore have a responsibility to sound a warning.
We need to take the last stand against this final obliteration of the institution of traditional leadership. How can traditional leaders support people who see us as “village tinpot dictators”? The ANC has made their intentions clear at the highest level.
I will continue to fight on behalf of traditional leaders and traditional communities. This has been my life-long work, for I believe in protecting all that our ancestors fought to achieve. Let us take their fight forward and ensure that it does not become a closed chapter of history.
The recognition given to the existence of the institution of traditional leadership in Chapter 12 of the Constitution creates a social compact. It is the result of many months of constitutional negotiation.
I am frustrated therefore when so-called analysts pretend that the existence of the Ingonyama Trust somehow reveals the existence of two South Africas, governed by two different sets of rules. That is simply untrue. Traditional communities are recognised by the same Constitution that recognises all of South Africa’s diversity.
This is not unique to South Africa’s Constitution. The Constitution of the United States, which is hailed as the world’s leading democracy, recognises the existence of reservations on which indigenous people of the United States live.
Traditional leaders are by no means a law unto themselves. Chapter 12 of the Constitution, in Section 211, reads as follows –
“(1) The institution, status and role of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised, subject to the Constitution.
(2) A traditional authority that observes a system of customary law may function subject to any applicable legislation and customs, which includes amendments to, or repeal of, that legislation or those customs.
(3) The courts must apply customary law when that law is applicable, subject to the Constitution and any legislation that specifically deals with customary law.”
Everything traditional leaders do is regulated by the Constitution. The Independent Electoral Commission even conducts elections of Traditional Councils. Moreover the principles of collegial wisdom and consensus speak to the fundamentally democratic nature of traditional leadership.
We are also subject to the Bill of Rights which, by the way, was among the IFP’s contributions to the Constitution. At the negotiating table, the ANC argued that the Freedom Charter sufficed and covered everything. But the IFP insisted on the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.
When a traditional leader acts as a law unto themselves, indeed when any irregularity is brought to the attention of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, it is dealt with. There are more than 300 traditional leaders in the Province of KwaZulu Natal alone, chairing over 300 Traditional Councils. Unfortunately, in any sphere of life you will find some bad eggs.
But the conduct of a few individuals cannot warrant former President Motlanthe calling all traditional leaders “village tin-pot dictators.” Why tarnish the entire institution for the anecdotal actions of a few individuals? Or, for that matter, why call for the scrapping of an entire Trust because it has some administrative challenges? Government has a plethora of challenges and failures, but no one has called for government to be scrapped.
Had the Panel wanted a better understanding of traditional leadership, it would have engaged in consultation with the National House of Traditional Leaders or with the Ingonyama Trust Board itself.
In fact a request was made by the KwaZulu Natal Provincial House of Traditional Leaders led by the King for ex-President Motlanthe to come and address us. He never responded. But proceeded to tell the world that he treated us with such disdain, because we are “village tin-pot dictators.” In a rejoinder I sent to one of the newspapers, I posed the question whether Inkosi Albert Luthuli, my leader and mentor, was also a “village tin-pot dictator” and whether I am also one.
I wish to speak now about Government’s Programme of Action on Traditional Affairs. I would be keen to hear the response from the National House of Traditional Leaders, and from the Chairpersons Forum, on the Programme of Action which was presented by Government on 19 March and 23 May respectively. I note that no mention is made in the Programme of the transfer of 13% of State land to traditional authorities.
During its 54th National Conference, the ANC took a resolution that the 13% of land that is under the control of the State “must be transferred to the institution of traditional leadership to be held in trust on behalf of the traditional communities”. [Resolution 3.11.4(vii)(b)]
During the Inaugural Indaba of Traditional Leaders hosted by the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in May last year, a Statement of Intent was produced that declared the following commitment –
“1.2 Government transferring 13% of land to traditional authorities within six months and where there is no legislation, such legislation be enacted with 2 years period.”
That was a year ago. Where does this process stand in June 2018?
I cannot help but wonder why Government would be willing to place 13% of State land into a trust administered by the institution of traditional leadership, when at the same time it wants to take land away from a Trust administered by traditional leadership and place it under the State. I must admit, I am confused by their agenda and would appreciate some clarity.
On 11 June 2018, the King of the Zulu Nation convened a meeting of traditional leaders to discuss the way forward on the issue of land. It was resolved that the King would invite President Ramaphosa to engage with traditional leaders so that we might get the kind of clarity that is needed on this complex and multi-faceted issue of land.
The King now seeks to call an Imbizo, to be held on the 4th of July, so that we as traditional leaders from across KwaZulu Natal can grapple with the threat that faces this institution. As the Prime Minister to the King, it is my duty to announce this Imbizo. I pray that it will offer the platform for us to secure the future.
The discussions held here are vital to this debate. I am grateful to be present. I ask however, in all humility, that we use every opportunity to approach this for what it is: a moment of crisis.
I thank you.