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Hands off the Ingonyama Trust Land – it belongs to the Zulu kingdom and people


Mbongeleni Joshua Mazibuko is an IFP member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature. This article is written in his individual capacity and is not in any way meant to render an official position of the IFP.

History knows that the king, amakhosi and the Zulus in general currently occupying the Ingonyama Trust land are the descendants of the owners, and it formed part of the sovereign Kingdom of the Zulus founded by King Shaka.

Like many South Africans, I have keenly followed the controversy emanating from the findings of the recent Advisory Panel on Land Reform on the portion of land under the trusteeship of His Majesty the King of the Zulus. These findings are similar to those of former president Kgalema Motlanthe’s panel which also recommended the review of the Ingonyama Trust Land Act or its repeal.

There are many interviews and comments on this subject, including a Mail & Guardian article of 7 August 2019 and the eNCA interview of 13 August 2019 conducted by Xoli Mngambi with Habakkuk Sefoka who was representing Contralesa.

It crystalises from these public debates that this controversy is rooted in the clash of cultures which continues to bedevil South Africa 25 years after the attainment of democracy.

This tug of war was evident at Codesa. It, however, predates Codesa for it also muddied the period of the struggle for liberation in almost the whole continent. Forces bent on elevating and preserving foreign forms of governing structures, thought and behaviour sought to rubbish and denigrate as tribalist, reactionary and conservative those who were committed to the restoration of the essence of being African through their cultural liberation.

The controversy around the Ingonyama Trust Land Act is a microcosm of a broader cultural confrontation between forces still bent on glorifying and projecting foreign, Western forms of governance as well as ways of thought and behaviour as holier than and superior to those of indigenous origin.

In the past, those opposed to everything associated with, or seen to foster the cultures of African people would cast aspersions on programmes which sought to decolonise the African mind, such as the promotion of indigenous languages and history; restoration of gravesites of kings; commemoration of historical days such as King Shaka Day, the Battle of Isandlwana and others; wearing of imvunulo, singing of indigenous songs; instilling the pride in being a Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana, Venda which are building blocks of the African family, which do not owe their existence to colonialism or apartheid.

The aspirations of the forces committed to the restoration of the essence of being African on the other hand were well articulated by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi as cited by Occasional Papers of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, when he told the United World College of Southern Africa that we believed our liberation would develop a process which [would] move the African experience towards the centre-stage of our society, after it was marginalised for so long by the pre-eminence acquired by Western cultures and traditions”.

He went on to say: “We need to liberate our African culture to assert its primacy within African society, for we cannot accept having achieved political freedom while remaining bound to live and exist by the rules and social patterns of a different culture.

We can no longer continue to consider transformation as a part of an evolution which, in the minds of some, should merely progressively change African society into the Westernised way of life. Transformation ought to be about changing of the present African society into a better African society which one day can fulfil our promises for social justice and prosperity.”

Up to the present, the same tug of war regarding the constitutionalisation of the roles and functions of the indigenous structures of governance in the democratic South Africa is still with us and is located within these two polarised positions. Addressing this subject specifically Buthelezi stated:

At present, South Africa is giving a very concerning example of how policies are developed to uniform society modelling after a Westernised development. In fact, we are in the process of developing a White Paper on Local Government which, inter alia, will address the role and functions of traditional authorities. At this time, it seems that the prevailing political impetus is that of establishing wall-to-wall elected municipalities throughout the republic and at all levels of local government which, if implemented, would obliterate the role, powers and functions presently exercised by traditional authorities.

In fact, one can see how traditional authorities are the tool of self-governance of our traditional communities once our communities are rightfully regarded as an organ of civil society which reflects the right of people to live and regulate their existence by our tradition. In our Constitution the right of self-determination at community level has been entrenched. Nevertheless, the present proposals would obliterate the traditional way of life as they would relegate the role of traditional leadership to ceremonial functions only. Basically, that would be tantamount to telling the majority of South Africans that they do not have the right to live by our traditions. These types of policies are foisted on us because of intellectual pressures developed out of the cocoon of the Westernised segments of our society, even if, in my opinion, they do not reflect the will of the majority of the people to which they are meant to apply.”

Proponents of the repeal of the Ingonyama Trust Land Act argue for its nationalisation together with all land so that it is centralised in government’s hands. To these people, this Western form of state and government is modern, relevant and more trustworthy – despite its obvious shortcomings – just because it is of foreign origin. They view indigenous structures of governance as archaic, obsolete and belonging to the dustbin of history.

However, to disguise their abhorrence of things indigenous, they throw around allegations such as that residents who live under Ingonyama Trust Board administration have many grievances caused by the sufferings they experience from this administration. Sefoka dealt very well with this allegation in his eNCA interview when, in response to the advisory panel findings, he stated that the panel – when conducting the investigations – confined itself to those who are against the Ingonyama Trust Land Act. He further stated that traditional leaders were not consulted by this panel. How did it then arrive at conclusions, having not engaged all role-players?

These allegations also ignore the facts that many people are abandoning the plush city suburbs for areas under amakhosi (tribal leaders). This becomes evident when one drives through many areas under amakhosi, as one is attracted to mansions mushrooming in these areas. Are these people not aware that there is suffering in areas administered by the Ingonyama Trust Board?

For the record, I must state I am not at all defending any shortcomings on the part of the Ingonyama Trust Board. What worries me is the demonstration of disingenuity by the anti-Ingonyama Trust Land voices.

It is a fact that almost daily South Africans face untold problems caused by fraud, corruption, unfulfilled promises, maladministration and other vices attributed to national, provincial and local governments. The State Capture Commission, the PIC Commission, other investigating organs as well as daily protests by frustrated communities, all stand as evidence of the sufferings meted out to citizens under the Western form of government. Yet, no one has called for doing away with government structures. Rather, we all argue for devising means to rescue government from the clutches of evil.

Why not adopt the same approach to the Ingonyama Trust Land Act? Why not talk about devising means to ensure fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of the institution so that it achieves its objectives? Why, only in the case of Ingonyama Trust Land, do they seek to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

Anti-Ingonyama voices also argue that the Ingonyama Trust Land Act portrays KwaZulu-Natal as an autonomous entity or country that is separate from South Africa.

The question is, was the area currently known as KwaZulu-Natal not the sovereign Kingdom of Zulus at some stage? Who incorporated that Zulu kingdom into South Africa? Was it not colonial conquerors who dismantled the kingdom and forcefully dragged its citizens into the white-ruled Union of South Africa without their consent? Lest we forget, the unitary state known as South Africa is the unilateral construct of our conquerors. And after 1994 we continued as the unitary state, the legacy that our former colonisers had left us. Nothing is sacrosanct about being a unitary state.

When the then chief minister of KwaZulu piloted this act through the then KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, he intended to achieve the objective of land restoration, obviously as one step in a struggle for complete liberation that would still take years to accomplish.

Was this an evil objective? Was it sinister on the part of Buthelezi to pioneer the act which returned this portion of land to the communal hands of the Zulu people through the custodianship of the king and amakhosi of the Zulu kingdom? Do these indigenous leaders not qualify to administer this land? Who is the current king of the Zulus; who are the current amakhosi of the Zulu kingdom; who are these Zulu people who pay allegiance to this institution of indigenous leadership?

History knows that the king, amakhosi and the Zulus in general currently occupying this land are the descendants of the owners of this portion of land which formed part of the sovereign Kingdom of the Zulus founded by King Shaka. They are the descendants of kings and warriors who fought wars of liberation defending their kingdom, their land from colonial forces that had invaded Africa bent on conquering and subjugating Africa as well as confiscating her wealth for imperial enrichment. These are the descendants of kings, warriors and multitudes of men and women who ultimately fell victim to superior arms of invaders and lost their kingdom and land. That led to the ancestors of the Zulus – like millions of other Africans – suffering untold oppression at the hands of colonial and apartheid governments.

Inkosi Mandla Mandela, if correctly quoted, touched the nub of what should be the focus of discussions with regards to the Ingonyama Trust Land Act. Mandela is reported to have said that he would listen positively to discussions which would talk about transplanting the Ingonyama land concept to all amakhosi areas. As one of those who were in the team that worked on the IFP’s May 2019 manifesto, I know that this is the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) thinking. Indeed, rather than being repealed, the Ingonyama Trust Land Act must be used as a model for all land currently governed by indigenous structures of leadership.

Private ownership of land must not be elevated to the level of sacredness as if it emerged from Mount Sinai. It is but one of the forms of land ownership.

There must be co-existence between Western and indigenous institutions. Why must South Africans be confined to one form of land tenure? Regarding this matter of private property, the law lecturer WJ du Plessis says: “Due to the domination of private property in the officially recognised laws of South Africa before the advent of constitutional democracy, the inclination is towards protection in the private ownership paradigm” (Du Plessis, WJ (n.d). African Indigenous Land Rights in a Private Ownership Paradigm; p.46. Retrieved from: Saflii; › Databases)

Du Plessis further says: “The colonists assumed that the language of ownership was universally applicable and also assumed that the concept of ‘ownership’ was applicable only to ‘civilised’ societies. The colonists also ‘assumed that land must have an owner, even where rights had never been defined’. The fact that ‘ownership’ was a strange concept to indigenous groups meant that the government could appropriate this ‘unowned’ land.”

Those who struggle for the restoration of the essence of being African do not call for the elimination of everything foreign or Western. We only argue against the veneration of foreign forms of governance over the indigenous ones. We argue for hybridisation of the foreign and indigenous because we recognise there are good elements in every culture. Buthelezi put it this way:

However, at the same time, we must enable our culture to receive those benefits of the Western heritage which were withheld from us during the time of colonialism. I am the product of that cross-pollination of cultures, for I believe that I am truly and entirely a Zulu, truly and entirely a South African, truly and entirely an African. and truly and entirely a citizen of the world. As such, I wish that my people could benefit from the same exposure that I have received.

Many of our people are bound to exist within the plurality of levels and dimensions in which they experience life. For instance, in my opinion, it is necessary that people in rural areas not only value, rediscover and take pride in our traditions and customs, but also that they acquire the Western dimension, knowledge and philosophy of life. I say this because I believe that quintessential to our African nature is the capacity to experience this plurality of dimensions without necessarily suffering a contradiction or seeking its resolution. In this respect, the African renaissance could be bringing one step forward some of the unsettling themes raised in the late 1950s by Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man.

Undoubtedly, across the world the challenge facing humanity at the dawn of the third millennium is one of multi-culturalism and a multi-dimensional experience of life, for which the African people are uniquely qualified. In this respect, I believe that Africa holds a lesson of wisdom which the rest of the world may learn in its constant quest for modernity. As far as we are concerned, I think it is important to frame the issue of modernity both within the context of our traditions as well as in that of the challenges confronting us.” (Buthelezi, M. (1997). Tradition and the Modern State; p.14. The African Renaissance. Occasional Papers, May 1998; Konrad Adenauer Stiftung).

The lasting solution for South Africa is to realise that this land is in Africa and the vast majority of her people are of African origin. Therefore, we must search for solutions from our African experience and essence while learning and applying what is good and relevant from foreign cultures. This is the context within which we must address the question of the Ingonyama Trust Land Act.

Efforts to trample underfoot everything indigenous in favour of things extraneous are sure to plunge the country into instability. DM


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