Cyril Ramaphosa. GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. GCIS

Traditional leaders have a pivotal role to play in the successful completion of the land reform process, President Cyril Ramaphosa says.

The president said at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in parliament on Tuesday that the government, in partnership with traditional leaders, is looking into the issues raised in a report by the presidential advisory panel on land reform.

The advisory panel was appointed by Ramaphosa in September 2018 to guide government policy on land reform. It submitted its report to the cabinet in July 2019. The cabinet rejected some of the proposals of the panel of experts, including those on limiting farm sizes, while leaving unresolved contentious issues such as what to do about the Ingonyama Trust. The trust was established in 1994 to be the custodian of land that was previously administered by the KwaZulu-Natal government. It comprises close to 30% of the land in the province.

King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is the sole trustee, said previously that anyone who “touched” the Ingonyama Trust would be declaring war on the Zulu nation.

Ramaphosa appointed the panel in the wake of the ANC’s 2017 resolution to back expropriation of land without compensation as a way of accelerating land reform and addressing skewed ownership patterns that have changed little since SA’s   first democratic elections in 1994.

The president’s July 2018 announcement that the ANC would seek to change the constitution to achieve land reform thrust the issue to the top of investors’ agenda and lead to a drop in the value of the rand.

On Tuesday, Ramaphosa said traditional leaders were at the forefront of making contributions on the matter. The National House of Traditional Leaders referred the bill on expropriation without compensation to all houses of traditional leaders in January 2020.

“Your participation is critical. It should be further noted that at the Traditional Leaders’ Indaba in 2017 it was resolved that there should be a presidential summit on land. I am pleased to say this summit will take place this year,” the president said.

The House has been holding discussions on this matter with the ministries of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, and that of agriculture, land reform and rural development. “It is important that each provincial house, assisted by the relevant provincial government, has their own engagements to inform the process leading up to the summit,” Ramaphosa said.

The mandate of the House includes: to promote the role of traditional leadership within the constitutional dispensation; promote nation-building; promote peace, stability and cohesiveness of communities; develop, preserve and promote culture and traditions of communities; consider parliamentary bills referred to it; participate in intergovernmental structures; and advise and make recommendations to the government.

Some observers argue that the institution of traditional leadership is archaic, oppressive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. But the government is of the view that the institution  still remains germane and necessary in contemporary SA.