By Local Amandla! Correspondent for Amandla! Magazine Issue 51
The protection of community land is threatened. Right now, there are proposals on three laws being debated. They concern the removal of all such protection.
A significant proportion of land in South Africa is not integrated into the system of capitalist buying and selling. A fight over control of this land is taking place behind the loud thunder of corruption and business partnership scandals: SASSA , PRASA , SSA , SABC, Eskom and SARS . The struggle against the land grab is fundamental. It is a struggle for the heart and soul of the South African economy. It is about the choice of development path from now on, no matter how corrupt state officials have become.
Will we march on further into extraction of minerals, capitalist exploitation of workers, and destruction of the environment, land and livelihood of rural communities? This is the path of the government. To achieve this, collective ownership and democratic community practices in many rural areas “must” be abolished. Something has to give, as they say.
The Traditional Courts Bill concerns the power of chiefs over their constituencies in general. The faction fight in the parliamentary committee over the TC bill is described by Monica de Souza Louw in another article in this issue of Amandla! It concerns whether disputes will be tackled through traditional courts or not. So it indirectly concerns the land.
The proposed changes in the mining law (MPRDA) and the Traditional Khoi- San and Leadership Bill (TKLB), on the other hand, are about land, head-on.
As the MPRDA stands now, a community must be “consulted” in a public hearing when a company wants to take the land for mining. But there is no right for the community to say no. This right is, for example, what the struggle in Xolobeni is about. Time and again the public hearings have served as points of mass mobilisation in defence of community land.
Now, in one of the amendments, the government wants to take away the requirement to consult a community that occupies land. Even the flawed “consultation” we have now is to be scrapped. Instead, it will be up to the Minister of the Mining Department (DMR ) to impose “conditions requiring the participation of the community”. The government wants to change the political setting of mining land grabs dramatically.
Organisations like Inyanda are now busy mobilising before the public hearings, demanding meetings in the rural areas where hundreds of communities will be directly affected.
This proposed change in the MPRDA goes hand in hand with the TKLB. In essence, the TKLB proposes to give the chiefs ownership over community land. It aims to encourage business partnerships between traditional leaders and corporations. These can be mining companies or companies that want to take community land to establish game farms for rich tourists.
If the TKLB passes, the corporation which wants community land only has to meet the chief and give him a stake the project, finish and klaar. TKLB aims to legalise what companies are already doing with “business-chiefs” in KZN, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The fierce resistance at public hearings on TKLB has not captured any headlines. Someone might even think that all the chiefs of South Africa cannot wait to become business men and land owners.
On 18 January, all chiefs of Mbizana were summoned by the House of Traditional Leaders of Eastern Cape. The Bisho delegation was led by Chief Ngangomhlaba. He urged: “Go to your people. Tell them that the chiefs don’t own the land. There is not one community in Eastern Cape that supports this bill. Tell your people that you have nothing to do with it.”
In thinly wielded reference to the killings of chiefs in Pondoland under apartheid, he warned: “If you don’t do that, some of you will meet God very quickly”.
“The government wants us to work for them. They want to bring us back to the 1950s.” And where, we wonder, is the EFF on this issue? We respect their points of orders in parliament and their fights with white shirts. But it is long overdue for them to come out against the Traditional Khoi-San and Leadership Bill (TKLB). Their silence is worrying. As for the others in parliament, we expect nothing from them.