King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The Ingonyama Trust Board has described the permission to occupy (PTO) land that is under its custodianship in KwaZulu-Natal as a racist system linked to the apartheid regime.

Although the board has denied any intention to do away with PTO on the land under the Ingonyama Trust, the board’s chairperson, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, and its chief executive officer, Bonginkosi Lucas Mkhwanazi, likened PTOs to a racist system and said it did not benefit land occupants.

King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, which is the custodian of about 2.8 million hectares of rural land in KZN.

Ngwenya and Mkhwanazi late last week filed responding affidavits on behalf of Ingonyama at the Pietermaritzburg High Court against the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac).

In November last year Casac, through the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), approached the high court looking to stop the trust’s long-term lease, which it alleged was a means to collect rent from rural land occupants.

In papers, Ngwenya described the PTOs as racist tenure instruments that did not advance occupants economically.

“This is so because a PTO is not registrable in the Deeds Office, like a title deed or lease. That the new, democratic order did not notice that it was perpetuating the apartheid system by condoning this instrument escapes logic,” said Ngwenya.

He also fired a salvo at Casac secretary Lawson Naidoo and the LRC for taking Ingonyama to court.

“Naidoo is not a Zulu and knows nothing about the Zulu way of life. From his assertion, he is based in Cape Town.

“It should be obvious from some of the attachments to his application that the LRC has been threatening the Ingonyama Trust with court action for some time, when it had no client to represent except itself,” read Ngwenya’s affidavit.

Mkhwanazi said the board had no powers or intentions to withdraw the PTOs, as “this power vests in the minister”.

Casac and LRC had alleged that by conversion of the current land rights into leases, Ingonyama was undermining the right of tenure, which would lead to land occupants being forced to pay rent.

“Should they fail to pay rent, they risk losing their right to the land they currently occupy and use. They may not build without the permission of the Ingonyama Trust. If they vacate the premises, all buildings and structures erected on the land will belong to the Ingonyama Trust,” read the Casac and LRC papers.

However, Mkhwanazi said the lease would provide Ingonyama land occupants with “more security and reinforce, rather than undermine, customary law rights”.

LRC’s Thabiso Mbhense said Casac intervened after realising that the rights of people who occupied the land were being violated. “This is a class action matter, and our clients are litigating on behalf of many people who signed lease agreements,” he said.

Political Bureau