By signing the Traditional & Khoi-San Leadership Bill into law, President Cyril Ramaphosa has grabbed the land rights of 18-million people who live in communal areas, particularly in the former Bantustans, and handed them to a bunch of rarely accountable men. It continues the tradition made infamous by the tradition of apartheid and colonial governments of bribing the chiefs to act as their stooges. With this backward law, Ramaphosa has missed an opportunity to secure land tenure for the people who need it most by transferring title deeds to citizens who live in rural areas.

This law will not pass the constitutional test of fairness, equality and dignity. Abuses of the past meted out to peasants by chiefs will escalate. Conflicts over land and resources, similar to the deadly decades-old Xolobeni strife in the Eastern Cape, will become an everyday occurrence. There have been many others...

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