Durban — King Misuzulu’s new demands that the government must place Ingonyama Trust land under his full control was impossible in a constitutional democracy.
This was the view of constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos, who told the Daily News that such demands were against the principle of democracy in South Africa.
De Vos said changes that can take place in the Ingonyama Trust Act will have to be debated and approved by Parliament, saying even though that can happen, it is unlikely to accede to the king’s demand.
He added that the late Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi and the IFP tried similar things during Codesa (Convention for Democratic South Africa) talks but were rejected, saying they demanded powers for KwaZulu-Natal which were almost on a level with the state.
“The demand for absolute control of land by any individual is not possible in a constitutional democracy. The land under Ingonyama Trust was created through the trust act and governing it by an individual outside the act is impossible in South Africa,” said De Vos.
He reminded the king that the government through the legislation had to come in and protect the people living on the land under Ingonyama Trust when the king was charging them rent, adding that the act stipulates that the king is a trustee on behalf of the people.
When the trust board converted permission to occupy (PTO) into a lease agreement, some residents, assisted by Lawson Naidoo of the Council for Advancement of the SA Constitution, took the trust to court and the Ingonyama Trust was ordered to pay back all the money it had collected from people.
The court said the land belonged to the people, not to the king. Although the trust appealed, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the Pietermaritzburg High Court decision and dismissed the appeal.
In June 2021, Judge Isaac Madondo found that the lease agreement of 2012 that compelled residents living under the trust to pay rent was unlawful and infringed on their rights. The court said the people were owners of land under Zulu customary law.
Further to the woes of the trust, a panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe recommended that the trust be disbanded.
Cultural expert Dr Gugu Mazibuko said she supported the king’s idea since it would give amakhosi a meaningful role in the administration of their land.
However, it was not possible under the current system of government, she said.
Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said the trust was governed by the Ingonyama Trust Act and anyone wishing to change this must follow the process of amending an act, which must happen in Parliament.
Ngcobo said the department also wanted to correct the section of the Zulu prime minister’s statement that says the trust and amakhosi are reporting to the minister sitting in Cape Town, saying this was misleading as the trust has the board, which has offices in Pietermaritzburg.
“The board runs the daily affairs of the trust and amakhosi can go to their offices on a daily basis. It’s a shame that the prime minister seems not to understand how the trust he is talking about operates,” said Ngcobo.
During the media briefing on Monday, through his newly-appointed traditional prime minister, the king said he wanted amakhosi to play a more significant and hands-on role in the governance of the Ingonyama Trust.
He added that he was holding consultations on whether it was still necessary for the Ingonyama Trust to be under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development 30 years into democracy.
The king questioned whether this was happening because amakhosi were illiterate and incapable of running their affairs and that they must still report to a minister sitting in Cape Town about their own land, inherited from their forefathers.
He asked why the land of the Zulu people must be administered in Cape Town, when amakhosi had their own governance structures which are closer to the people and recognised in law, such as the provincial House of Traditional Leaders. The king also vowed to “do everything in his power to protect, preserve and develop the land for the benefit of the Zulu nation”.
The king has also ordered his regiment commander, Prince Vanana Zulu, to start a recruitment drive of young amabutho in all districts of the province.
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