Don’t touch our land, plead traditional leaders
Traditional leaders are not interested in the broad debate of whether expropriation works or not. All they want is to be exempted if it does become law.
The request by traditional leaders to exclude communal land from expropriation was dismissed by Jeremy Cronin, deputy minister of public works, at this week’s hearings into the Expropriation Bill in Parliament.
In recent weeks, traditional leaders have been trying to exert their powers against those of local government in public appeals to the government not to undermine their role as custodians of communal land.
This week, in its submission to the Expropriation Bill, the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) asked government to exclude communal land from expropriation. Members say if the government goes ahead with expropriation, they want to be consulted and want to work with municipalities during the process.
Traditional leaders also want the public works minister to be the only authority with the power to expropriate land and say government departments, premiers and municipalities should not have these powers.
Presenting the submission to Parliament’s public works portfolio committee, NHTL deputy chairperson Sipho Mahlangu said: “We are saying we want to work with municipalities. But it cannot be accepted that the institution [of traditional leaders] will be excluded and things will be parachuted in without engaging with those communities because both of us are leading the same communities and all of us want to see development.”
He said while some municipalities were providing sterling services in a few traditional areas, there were also contestations and squabbles between councillors and traditional leaders in areas with no clearly defined roles.
“Sometimes, because of the squabbles between councillors and the institution [of traditional leaders], land will be taken to silence the traditional leader so as not to have a say in developments. We are saying the minister will be the person best suited to handle that process.”
Cronin replied: “We would not want to exclude communal land from expropriation because there are reasons for expropriating land … for public purposes.”
This is the second time traditional leaders have attacked a government legislative proposal.
Last month, they asked Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti to suspend the implementation of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act.