‘Shock’ at the Khoi-San bill
Signed by the president despite being ‘in breach of fundamental constitutional rights’
CORRUPTION Watch has reacted with “shock” to President Cyril Ramaphosa signing the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill into law.
It said it had anticipated that Ramaphosa would refer the bill back to parliament after two panel reports warned that provisions of the bill were in breach of fundamental constitutional rights.
Corruption Watch said the bill granted undue rights to traditional leaders at the expense of communities who would be easily dispossessed of their land.
On Friday, Ramaphosa said the legislation sought to transform traditional and Khoi-San institutions and bring them in line with constitutional imperatives and restore the legitimacy of institutions of traditional and KhoiSan leadership.
Corruption Watch spokesperson Phemelo Khaas said it was of particular concern that despite the influx of submissions by civil society, local non-governmental organisations and community members, including the well-known campaign #StopBantustanBills formed by the Alliance for Rural Democracy, “the president chose to ignore these advocacy initiatives which highlight the risk that the bill will have on the more than 18 million South Africans living in the former homelands”.
Khaas said the bill gave traditional leaders the right to enter into agreements on the use of land without the consent of the most affected groups. “This effectively enables traditional leadership structures to dispossess people of their land without either their agreement or expropriation”.
National Khoi and San Council chairperson Cecil le Fleur said they wanted to dispel the myth that the act would only benefit a few opportunists. “We would like to hereby set the record straight as to how we, as the Khoi and San communities, see this law for what it has to offer our communities”.
Le Fleur said it would now formally record their collective presence in the country. “We will now be recognised on par with other cultural identities such as Xhosa, Sotho, Zulu, Venda, Tswana and others. That is critical for our African cultural identity to exist formally and to be restored.”
He sad it would also afford the Khoi and San the opportunity to live under traditional law and custom in accordance with their Constitutional rights.
“It will allow the Khoi and San to structurally have access to all tiers of government. We don’t expect the system to be perfect, but they need the opportunity to be on par with others, to continue the work of strengthening their traditional leadership system.”
Khoi and San leader Tania Kleinhans-Cedras said the Khoi and San people were not part of the pre-negotiations for a new Constitution.
She said the bill did not speak about the legal framework, “which means we are going to have customary courts and this gives extreme power to the president.”