King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
King Goodwill Zwelithini. Picture: THULI DLAMINI

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini wanted President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign an agreement promising to exclude territories that the monarch controlled from the government land-reform drive, the eNCA news channel reported on Monday.

The ANC is targeting white-owned land for expropriation, while seeking to provide security of tenure to the 17-million people — a third of South Africa’s population — who reside on tribal lands controlled by traditional leaders.

The king controls 2.8-million hectares through the Ingonyama Trust.

In September a senior ANC official said the land reforms would include issuing title deeds to small-scale farmers on tribal lands — a departure from statements made by Ramaphosa, who pledged to the king that he would not touch the land the king controls.

The news channel reported that the Zulu monarch said a signed agreement on the matter was needed. He said this when he addressed thousands of his subjects in Durban on Sunday.

"The president must come here to tell me and the Zulu nation, which I will call to gather here. He must tell us and then sign an agreement that the land of the Zulus will not be touched," the king was quoted as saying.

In July, the king warned of conflict over the issue. Other traditional leaders also publicly told the ANC not to undermine their authority on the 13% of the country that they rule.

Wide powers

Tribal authorities in these areas — the former apartheid-era homelands — have wide powers of land allocation.

Curtailing the power of these authorities could have implications for a range of actors, including the mining companies that cut deals with the chiefs to access minerals.

Traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize told Reuters on Friday the government had not yet decided how land reform would happen in the tribal areas. "It is a somewhat slippery issue. We are still trying to find the best solution," Mkhize said.

Reuters