Land own­er­ship is about our her­itage, not just a braai day

Me­dia wrong to in­sin­u­ate min­is­ter dodged ques­tions

The Star Early Edition - - LETTER - Tshepo Diale Dire Tladi

SEPTEM­BER 24 is cel­e­brated each year as Her­itage Day. The cen­tral dis­course around the day is our shared cul­ture, di­ver­sity and tra­di­tions in con­text of a na­tion that be­longs to all. How­ever can we cel­e­brate our her­itage with­out land?

The land ques­tion is ac­tu­ally not about land. It is more about sym­bol­ism, his­tory and in­equal­ity. Land is our iden­tity. It en­ables us to be­long, to ex­press our cul­ture and to pro­duce bread.

The land is what con­nects us and it is worth fight­ing for be­cause it the only thing we can leave our de­scen­dants.

Un­til it is re­turned, our her­itage will con­tinue to be re­duced to a braai day. The il­lu­sion that our her­itage is to wear “tra­di­tional gear”, dance, sing and braai is ab­surd.

Most, if not all, black South Africans feel jus­ti­fi­ably strongly about the great in­jus­tice done to them and their an­ces­tors by the de­scen­dants of the white ar­rivals of cen­turies ago by tak­ing most of the land for them­selves, a sit­u­a­tion that hasn’t changed post apartheid rule. But the so­lu­tion can­not be as sim­plis­tic as hand­ing all the land to gov­ern­ment to dish out to black cit­i­zens.

The very na­ture of land own­er­ship, at least of agri­cul­tural land, has changed fun­da­men­tally over the decades. Agri­cul­tural land has shifted from be­ing about iden­tity to be­ing more of a busi­ness com­mod­ity, a means to cre­ate wealth, job and food se­cu­rity. So as we dis­cuss the land is­sue, we ought to come up with ideas of how we will best utilise it once it’s re­turned. That’s the her­itage worth leav­ing for our de­scen­dants. Nkwe Es­tate, Pre­to­ria

WRITE TO US

LAST week sev­eral me­dia out­lets ran sto­ries to the ef­fect that the Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion, Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane, was “dodg­ing” re­spond­ing to ques­tions on the in­ci­dent con­cern­ing the First Lady of Zim­babwe, Grace Mu­gabe, and Gabriella En­gels.

In the re­port­ing, how­ever, a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant factors were ig­nored.

The meet­ings at­tended by the min­is­ter were ar­ranged well be­fore the re­quest for her to at­tend the par­lia­men­tary ses­sions were made.

Given the min­is­ter’s man­date, it is not pos­si­ble to sim­ply can­cel pre-ar­ranged bi­lat­eral meet­ings with for­eign af­fairs coun­ter­parts, es­pe­cially in view of the fact that these are part of the de­liv­er­ables in Dirco’s An­nual Per­for­mance Plan.

On Septem­ber 7, for ex­am­ple, Nkoana-Masha­bane, in ad­di­tion to the meet­ing with her Viet­namese coun­ter­part on the back end of the Brics (Brazil, Rus­sia, India, China and South Africa busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties) Sum­mit, she was also at­tend­ing the Asia Re­gional Heads of Mis­sion Con­fer­ence.

The min­is­ter had been more than will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in par­lia­men­tary pro­cesses re­lat­ing to the Grace Mu­gabe is­sue.

Prior to re­ceiv­ing any re­quest for the min­is­ter to brief Par­lia­ment or re­spond to Par­lia­ment, she her­self wrote to both the Speaker of Par­lia­ment and the chair­per­son of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee, ex­press­ing her will­ing­ness to brief them on the is­sue.

Both the let­ters from the min­is­ter and com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­firm­ing their re­ceipt by the re­spec­tive par­lia­men­tary of­fices are avail­able.

So it can­not be true that the min­is­ter was “dodg­ing” ques­tions since she was the one that had availed her­self to re­spond to ques­tions on the mat­ter.

Al­though there has been crit­i­cism of the min­is­ter’s re­liance on the sub-judice rule, it should be noted that the min­is­ter did take se­ri­ous ac­count of the fact that the mat­ter was sub-judice.

It is true, as some have noted, that the scope of the rule has been sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ished un­der the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tional dis­pen­sa­tion of de­lib­er­a­tion and jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Even so, where any process is likely to prej­u­dice ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings, such a process would fall foul of the sub-judice process.

Par­lia­ment’s role is to hold the ex­ec­u­tive ac­count­able.

Any process within Par­lia­ment is there­fore in­tended to de­ter­mine whether Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane ap­pro­pri­ately ex­er­cised her dis­cre­tion un­der sec­tion 7(2) of the Diplo­matic Im­mu­ni­ties and Priv­i­leges Act.

But that is pre­cisely the ques­tion be­fore the court.

It does not come much closer to prej­u­dic­ing the ju­di­cial process than that.

The DA wants to eat its cake and have it too – to have both a ju­di­cial process and a par­lia­men­tary process at the same time.

It would be more ap­pro­pri­ate to ei­ther fol­low the par­lia­men­tary route first, then if un­sat­is­fied with the min­is­ter’s ex­pla­na­tion, ap­proach court or fol­low the ju­di­cial route first and if suc­cess­ful seek par­lia­men­tary cen­sure.

A re­lated mat­ter con­cerns the avail­abil­ity of the min­is­ter to re­spond to par­lia­men­tary ques­tions on Septem­ber 7.

The min­is­ter had al­ready in­formed the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness that she would be away on of­fi­cial duty and that she would be un­avail­able to per­son­ally re­spond to ques­tions.

How­ever, the rules do per­mit the min­is­ter to be rep­re­sented ei­ther by one of her deputies or another cabi­net min­is­ter.

The min­is­ter will be in North Amer­ica from Septem­ber 14 to 22 to at­tend the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly High Level ses­sion in New York and the North Amer­ica Heads of Mis­sion Con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa.

It is ob­served that the full port­fo­lio com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment will be in Ot­tawa from Septem­ber 9 to 17 on a study tour.

The min­is­ter has ex­pressed her will­ing­ness to meet the mem­bers of the com­mit­tee for dis­cus­sions of these and other is­sues.

What is im­por­tant to note, how­ever, is that the min­is­ter is not, at all, afraid to an­swer ques­tions con­cern­ing the con­fer­ring of im­mu­ni­ties on Mrs Grace Mu­gabe.

As she has ex­pressed be­fore, the de­ci­sion was not an easy one to make but one that, in her dis­cre­tion, was jus­ti­fied.

It is not pos­si­ble to sim­ply can­cel pre-ar­ranged meet­ings

Spe­cial Ad­viser to Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane

PRE-AR­RANGED: Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane with Viet­namese Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Pham Bình Minh, on Septem­ber 7 dur­ing her work­ing visit to Viet­nam.

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