Land ownership is about our heritage, not just a braai day
Media wrong to insinuate minister dodged questions
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
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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.