Traditional leaders, including IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Contralesa president Phathekile Holomisa, gathered in Durban on Wednesday, where they said any attempt to take away communal land from traditional leaders amounted to a direct attack on the institution of traditional leadership.
The warning comes a week before Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini convenes an imbizo of amakhosi and amabutho to discuss “threats” facing traditional leadership in KwaZulu-Natal.
This comes at a time when Parliament has started public hearings on the proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution to allow the state to expropriate land without compensation.
Buthelezi, who is also the inkosi of the Buthelezi clan at Mahlabathini near Ulundi, said the country had reached a point “where the issue of land could well ignite violence in our nation”.
Addressing a lekgotla of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Durban, Buthelezi said the lack of clarity on what land would be expropriated and how that would happen opened the way for uncertainty and conflict.
He said without any land to administer, traditional leadership would be obliterated.
This has led to jitters as some traditional leaders believe they stand to lose the pieces of tribal land they administer, hence they want communal land to be exempted from any expropriation, while some have argued that people living on tribal land have no security of tenure as they cannot even get title deeds.
Holomisa called for action, saying traditional leaders could not sit idly and watch when their land was taken away.
“When people come to invade the tribal land, in any nation it is the men in that community who have to defend the land
“We cannot envision a situation where somebody comes and illegally occupies your land as the nation without you doing anything about it. The police must arrive with you having already taken steps necessary to protect and defend the property.”
He called on traditional leaders to unite across provincial and tribal lines to form a revived coalition of traditional leaders, saying that in the past such a coalition was able to bring government to a standstill.
Holomisa was referring to the early 2000s, when traditional leaders under this banner threatened to boycott elections and were able to force the government to commit to constitutional amendments, although Buthelezi said such a promise was not kept.
“Somebody was saying politicians are afraid of us because elections are coming, but what we are saying is that is going to make them afraid of us as traditional leaders,” Holomisa told amakhosi.
Advocate Bashi Makgale, the director of operations at Royal Bafokeng, said tribal land should be excluded from pieces of land that would be expropriated.
He said land was in the past taken away from black people through acts, proclamations and conquests, and therefore any move to expropriate tribal land amounted to double jeopardy.
“The 13% we have should not be offered as the subject of expropriation; 87% should be the subject of expropriation because it was taken.”
He said the communal ownership of land was the most secure land tenure.
“If politicians think they can treat all areas like the urban areas, this will amount to unintended consequences such as homelessness and poverty,” he warned.
The chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, called on traditional leaders to engage in a process on how the modern system could be integrated with customary law to ensure the documentation of rights.
He slammed those who advocated title deeds as the most protective instrument, saying they had created an unnecessary tension.
“If the title deeds were such a protective instrument, then the forced removals would not have happened,” he said.
He said the proponents of the title deeds took the approach that it was either communal ownership of land or the title deed, and that these could not co-exist.
The future of the Ingonyama Trust has also come under the spotlight following a recommendation by a panel led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe that the Ingonyama Trust Act either be repealed or amended.
The lekgotla, which started on Monday, is expected to end today.
Traditional leaders also spoke about natural resources discovered on tribal land.
Holomisa said while natural resources were a strategic resource that should benefit the entire country, the first beneficiaries of those resources should be members of those communities where the resources were found.