Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement File photo / Werner Beukes

DURBAN – Government and the Zulu kingdom “should not start pressing panic buttons” when it comes to land expropriation without compensation, the Ingonyama Trust Act, or anything else to do with the land issue, United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said on Thursday.

Holomisa was speaking to African News Agency (ANA) on statements made by Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, during a land imbizo in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu-Natal, on Wednesday.

Zwelithini had called any attempts to remove his ownership of rural land in the province a provocation to the Zulu nation and a call to war.

The king was reacting to a report released last year, titled the “High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change”, drafted by a team led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe. 

The 600-page report did not only address land, but made recommendations on all legislation adopted since the ANC came into power.

Concerning land, the report recommended that the “Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed, or substantially amended, to protect existing customary land rights”.

The Trust controls close on 30% of mostly rural land in KwaZulu-Natal. It was created on the eve of the 1994 election to secure the participation of the Inkatha Freedom Party in those elections. The KwaZulu Government Bantustan had previously controlled the land.

South Africa is currently involved in an intense and emotive debate about the possibly of amending its constitution to allow for expropriation of land without compensation. A parliamentary committee is expected in KwaZulu-Natal from 18 to 21 July to hold public meetings on the subject.

Holomisa said that when it came to land, what should have been clarified “from the word go” was that the priority currently surrounding debates was not 13% of land owned by blacks.

“The priority is to help blacks to have access to 87% of the land. That should be the focus of the discussion,” he told ANA. 

Holomisa said the public relations department of parliament and the ANC could be blamed for the lack of clarity around proposed changes to land ownership. 

“There was no need to raise tensions around the issue of land at all,” he said.

He also said that Motlanthe had “gone too far” when he called traditional leaders “tinpot dictators” at a land summit in June. Those comments, and the fact that Motlanthe led the team that drafted the high level report, left traditional leaders incensed.

People “on the ground” respected traditional leaders and there was certainly room for them in a progressive society, said Holomisa.

“But if traditional leaders allow themselves to be embedded, then you are going to have problems. There are acres and acres of space for traditional leaders to talk developmental programmes like agriculture, irrigation, to create markets for their own people. There is a great opportunity for traditional leaders,” said Holomisa.

ANC NEC member, Fikile Mbalula, speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, said the king “is absolutely within his right…to engage with his people to ventilate issues that affect that particular nation”.

He said the recommendations in the high level report had not been discussed by the ANC.

“The ANC has never formulated a view that is in favour or against what has been expressed by the high level panel. We will engage with the king to make the issue of the ANC very clear, and this will take place at a higher level, with the ANC president leading that process,” said Mbalula.

Addressing Motlanthe calling traditional leaders tin pot dictators, he said “party elders” were handling the issue.

Motlanthe was not willing to answer questions when approached by ANA.

African News Agency (ANA)