A leading civil society group dealing with rural land rights has condemned the signing of the Traditional Khoi San Leadership Bill, saying the legislation will worsen oppression of rural women.
The legislation also gave a licence to tribal authorities to violate women’s rights to land, because chiefs and headmen in rural areas continued to demand that women must be accompanied by men, or a man must sign on their behalf, if they wanted access to land, or to run an empowerment development project.
The Inyanda National Land Movement said the legislation, effectively reimposed apartheid Bantustan realities onto millions of people and gave licence to traditional leaders to deprive women of their access to land.
“Inyanda, along with numerous other civil society movements, have for years been calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the government not to approve the Bill. But the voice of civil society has clearly fallen on deaf ears,” the movement said.
Civil society organisations across the board opposed the Bill during parliamentary hearings, saying it restored the old apartheid homeland system. This was because the legislation would apply in areas ruled by traditional authorities that basically were the former apartheid Bantustans.
The movement said among the most disturbing provisions of the Bill was the power it extended to traditional authorities and traditional councils to sign away land and enter into deals with third parties, such as mining companies or agricultural corporations, irrespective of the views of the local community.
It said the law confirmed and extended the powers of traditional authorities such as kings, queens, chiefs and headmen.
“These traditional authorities will now have governmental, law-making, judicial, custom-making and land administration powers, all at the same time. The people who will suffer the most are women,” it said.
The organisation cited a number of cases, gleaned from testimonies from women in various locations who suffered injustice at the hands of traditional authorities that were run by chiefs and headmen in the Eastern Cape.
According to Inyanda, a family in Elliotdale near Mqanduli in the former Transkei had to wait two months to bury their relative because the deceased woman was not a follower of the local chief. As a result, he refused to promptly issue the required confirmation-of-death letter for her body to be released from the mortuary.
In Quzini outside King William’s Town, a women’s cooperative was denied land for an agricultural project by the local chief because there were no men involved in the project.