All the king’s horses, and all the king’s land

CityPress - - Voices - Paddy Harper

When you take a drive through ru­ral KwaZulu-Natal, par­tic­u­larly Zu­l­u­land, the economic re­al­i­ties of how apartheid re­ally worked hit you like a slap in the face.

What were the his­tor­i­cally white towns – Eshowe, Mel­moth, Vry­heid and Pon­gola – oc­cu­pied the choice farm­ing land along the re­gion’s main river sources and strad­dled its best roads, guar­an­tee­ing easy ac­cess to mar­kets. Black Zu­l­u­land was the vast ex­panse of gen­er­ally un­farmable land through­out the district and around the black towns of Ulundi and Non­goma, short on wa­ter but over­sup­plied with red sand and thorn trees.

Two decades have passed since the Na­tional Party was un­seated, but lit­tle of this own­er­ship pat­tern ap­pears to have changed. The re­gion’s economic spine is still be­yond the reach of the ma­jor­ity of its peo­ple, with more than 180 land claims in the area re­main­ing unset­tled more than 15 years af­ter the resti­tu­tion process closed in 1998. The prob­lems of Zu­l­u­land’s ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties don’t end there. They do not have se­cu­rity of ten­ure over the land they live on, as it is ad­min­is­tered by the In­gonyama Trust on be­half of King Good­will Zwelithini. The trust was set up in terms of a deal between the Nats and the Inkatha Free­dom Party on the eve of the 1994 elec­tions and was for­malised un­der the new dis­pen­sa­tion. As a re­sult, ru­ral peo­ple don’t own the land they live on, and there are no indi­ca­tions that ei­ther the gov­ern­ment or the monarch want this to change.

To the con­trary, the new land resti­tu­tion process in terms of the Resti­tu­tion of Land Rights Amend­ment Act, seems set to see the con­trol of the monarch and the tra­di­tional lead­ers who act on his be­half at com­mu­nity level over land in­creas­ing rather than de­creas­ing.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma kicked off this process in Fe­bru­ary with his call to the House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers to reg­is­ter claims. As a re­sult, Zwelithini is lay­ing claim to KwaZulu-Natal and be­yond with the sup­port of amaKhosi, with oth­ers fol­low­ing suit.

Th­ese claims – the Zulu monarch’s is be­ing funded by the state via the trust – are putting the in­sti­tu­tions of tra­di­tional lead­er­ship di­rectly in con­flict with the com­mu­ni­ties whose Com­mu­nal Prop­erty As­so­ci­a­tions have laid ex­ist­ing claims and are lin­ing up new ones in terms of the sec­ond win­dow. All of this while min­ing houses pre­pare to do more busi­ness with the amaKhosi and the trust – who have al­ready given them ac­cess to sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties with­out their con­sent – rather than Com­mu­nal Prop­erty As­so­ci­a­tions.

What should have been a process to help ru­ral peo­ple se­cure land rights is rapidly turn­ing into a cyn­i­cal scram­ble for con­trol over the re­gion’s min­eral re­sources.

The re­gion’s economic spine is still be­yond the reach of the ma­jor­ity of its peo­ple

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