Statement issued by the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) Communications Advocate, Nokuthula Mthimunye.
It has been widely reported that the ANC resolved, at its national conference in December 2017, that traditional leaders should relinquish custodianship of the land held in trust by the government and transfer the land in traditional holdings to people who live on it.
The ANC’s resolution followed the release in November of a much-anticipated report by Parliament’s High Level Panel on the assessment of key legislations and fundamental changes.
The Panel recommended that the Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed or amended and that the Ingonyama Trust, of which Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee, be dissolved. These recommendations were based on detailed research reports, expert testimony at a series of focused roundtable discussions, and the testimonies of close to 10,000 people who attended public hearings across the country.
Both the ANC and the High Level Panel proposals have been strongly contested by the Zulu monarch. Just days after the High Level Panel report was released, the Ingonyama Trust ramped up its campaign to persuade rural citizens to convert their existing land rights, documented in Permission to Occupy (PTO) certificates, to long-term leases. These leases carry a range of new conditions, and can be cancelled for non-payment or other violations of the contract.
The Ingonyama Trust takes in over R90 million a year in income from leases, according to its 2015/2016 financial report submitted to Parliament. The rent it receives in terms of leases is significantly more that it would receive in terms of PTO’s. For example, trusts received approximately R100 annually in terms of residential PTOs but receives on average R1000 annually in lease agreements. It is clear, therefore, that signing lease agreements has increased the revenue of the Trust. There is also no evidence in the reports that any substantial share of the income has benefited ordinary residents.
Historically, PTOs were an important form of tenure security for people residing on Trust land. The conversion of PTOs into leases is generally a weaker type of right because residents will begin paying rental on land that they effectively own. Lease agreements put PTO holders in vulnerable positions regarding rental and rental escalation. The ITB lease agreements provide for a 40-year term and a 10% annual increase in rental.
Many of the families in communal areas are considered subsistence or small-scale farmers, as they farm on their land or use it for grazing. The lack of secure tenure in communal areas leaves many of these families living in these areas vulnerable to all kinds of exploitations.
Communities have reported cases where the chief has sold or given leases on land which has been occupied and used by families for 100 years to businesses. The trust threatens the rights of rural communities by authorizing mining activities and other developments on the land. In cases where a mining company uses the land, compensation has been paid to Ingonyama and not the people which have been deprived the use of that land. Communities are being forced to sign leases for their ancestral land. This is frequently done without proper community consultation and has led to the deprivation of use rights, access to land and has taken away families livelihoods.
AFRA supports the recommendations made by the High Level Panel to bring KwaZulu-Natal in line with National land policy and secure land tenure for the communities and residents in communal areas. We believe that there is also a pressing need to create mechanisms to investigate and resolve complaints by people whose rights have been infringed by the Trust.
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