AbstractThe landreform issue has long been a focus of policy discussion in South Africa and thebasis for dealing with land issues has changed over time. A number of landreform policies have been proposed with very little success. The idea of landin South Africa has little to do with class and everything to do with land,heritage and reclaiming that which was stolen under colonialism, then underimperialism, and finally under apartheid which is the civil religion of postwarSouth Africa. This paper sheds light on the chieftaincy system and how landdistribution works. Although this land is not much compared to the land in thehands of minority white farmers, this paper argues that if land redistributionis to work, it needs to work at all levels of governments.
Therefore, through aliterature review, this paper attempts to answer the following questions: 1)How traditional leaders derive their authority? 2) What methods are traditionalleaders using to distribute land? 3) How effective are these methods? Keywords: Landreform, Traditional leaders, Apartheid, Colonialism 1. IntroductionIt’s been more than 20 years sinceSouth Africa become a democratic state. However, the land reform issue stillremains a hot and sensitive subject. Land ownership is a thorny issue with the governmentclaiming that up to 87% of South Africa’s agricultural land is still in thehands of white farmers (European immigrants). The country’s bitter historyunder the colonial rule of apartheid has left an everlasting legacy of racial segregationand land disposition. Thisis the legacy that the ANC (African National Congress) government inherited in1994 when they took over the country.
For many South Africans, the birthof democracy was a symbol of hope and that most of their problems, if not allof them, would be solved. Since democracy in 1994, South Africa still has oneof the biggest gaps between the rich and thepoor in the world. Like many other countries that have undergone a land redistributionprogram, South Africans see land redistribution as a means to alleviatepoverty. The Government has put the land redistribution issue high up on theagenda. However, common South Africans are getting impatient as they feel thatthe government is dragging its feet in enacting effective land redistributionpolicies. Over the last two decades, several land reform policies have been proposed.
Thus far, these policies have been plagued by poor planning and execution. Inthe face of a downward-spiraling economy, the land problem is more pressingthan ever.The land reform issue has long been a focus of policy discussion inSouth Africa and the basis for dealing with land issues has changed over time.This statement is backed up by Hall (2009) that “as policy is redrawn, it seems that old ideas are beingreinvented or renamed and that failed approaches are being tinkered with ratherthan discarded or replaced” (p.17). With the land reform policies, thegovernment is attempting to redress the injustices of apartheid, whilefostering reconciliation and stability.
Also, they seek to improve economicgrowth, improve household welfare and alleviate poverty. Much has been said about the land thatremains in the hands of the minority, but very little has been said about theland in the hands of traditional leaders (tribal authorities), also known asvillage chiefs. These chiefs have many people living under them who are dishedout land at the discretion of the village chief. This method has beencriticized as being a patriarchal approach that lacks a standardized system ofland distribution. This institution of traditional leadership was later integratedinto the government’s structure as an extended arm.This studyexplores the role of traditional leaders in the grand scheme of landredistribution.
It attempts to answer three related questions: 1) how didtraditional leaders derive their power? 2) What methods are traditional leadersusing to distribute land to the people living under them? 3) Are these methods effective?To answer these questions, it is necessary to look back at the history of SouthAfrica. 2. LiteratureReview2.1 History of unequal land redistributionLand ownershipin South Africa has long been a source of conflict.
South African history of conquest and dispossession, where blacks wereforcefully removed and the racially-skewed distribution of land resources hasleft the new South Africa with a complex and difficult legacy. The issueconcerning land in South Africa is deeply rooted in what happened in the past,where rural exploitation has implied displacement. The Land Act policyrestricted black people from buying or occupying land accept as employees of Europeanimmigrants. This act gave the white minority ownership of 87% of the land,leaving the black majority to settle in the remaining 13%. This policy alsominimized competition by denying African the right to purchase land and theopportunity to become shareholders on European owned land.
This meant that theAct also marked the end of the limited independence that African farmers had onEuropean-owned land (The native land Act 27, 1913).This process involved stripping Africans of all their productive assets, notjust land. This included the loss of water and cattle rights, human capital,their communities and important demographic structures (Zimmerman,2000).Figure1: Bantustan territories in South Africa during the apartheid era.
The editors ofencyclopedia Britannica (2017). Figure1; depict how the Native land act policy was used by the apartheid regime toforcefully remove Africans from their homeland. 87% of Africans were placed insmall designated and confined land known as the Bantustans while 13% of theEuropean settlers occupied the remaining land. According to The Editorsof Encyclopædia Britannica (2017), Bantustans were structured and placed basedon ethnic and linguistic groupings defined by white ethnographers.
KwaZulu wasthe designated homeland of the Zulu people,Transkei and Ciskei for Xhosa people and the otherarbitrarily defined groups were the North Sotho, South Sotho, Venda, Tsonga, and Swazi. Freedom of movement for Africans was restricted outsidetheir designated area. “The poor, at least, need to be systematically triagedand regulated at the point of entry to the wealthiest territories” (Balibar, 2010). Traditional leaders of different ethnicgroups managed and were in charge of the Bantustan territories. 2.2 The Origins of the Traditional leadersTheinstitution of traditional leadership represents an early form of societal organization.It embodies the protection of culture, traditions, customs and value (“The role of traditional”, 2014).
Thisinstitution has always been a natural and common form of supremacy within Africansocieties. A traditional leader is a person appointed in accordance withtraditions and customs of the area or tribe by virtue of his or her ancestry.He or she has traditional authority over the people who live in that area (“Chieftaincy and Kingship”, 2012) Steinmoen, (n.d.), explains that the status ofauthority is passed onto the next generation by kin, mainly to the son of thechief. In this case is dominantly a patriarchal society with some anomalieswhere women became chiefs.
Therefore traditional leadership is based ongovernance of the people, where a traditional leader is accountable to hissubject.Theinstitution of traditional leadership existed even before the colonial era.However, in this period, traditional leaders were accountable to theircommunities and were the highest form of political power. When the apartheidregime came into power, they confined Africans to small homelands or Bantustansunder the rule of chiefs.
According to Ntebeza(2005), the apartheid government created the tribal authorities whichwere highly authoritarian and despotic. It was during this time that theloyalty of traditional leaders shifted from their communities to the apartheidregime (Khunou, 2010). Before the currentANC government came into power in 1994, they promised to abolish thechieftaincy system. However, towards the first democratic elections, the ANCchanged their views on the chieftaincy system to extend their support in ruralcommunities. Kadt and Arbesu. (2014), statesthat in many rural areas electoral polling stations are local tribal courts,potentially magnifying the salience and power of traditional leaders whencitizens vote. 2.
3 Traditional leaders in democracyBefore the ANCgovernment came into power, they saw the chieftaincy system as a way to extendtheir support in rural areas. As a result, traditional leaders were recognizedas the fourth arm of government along national, provincial and municipalgovernments. Figure 2, shows how the institution of traditional leaders haspenetrated and is positioned in all level of government (national, provincialand local) to remain in power. It is evident that this institution is goingnowhere in south Africa. Chapter 12 of the Southconstitution (1996) recognizes the institution of traditional leaders’authority roles and status. But not the authority to give people land. The traditional leaders quickly aligned themselves with theANC government to remain relevant.Figure2: Traditionalleadership and independent Bantustans of South Africa.
Khunou, (2010).To this day,traditional leaders continue to exercise their authority over people livingunder them. The institution of traditional leadership is in contradiction withwhat democracy is. This is due to the fact that traditional leaders are electedbased on lineage and not by the masses. This method contradicts the values ofdemocracy and promotes the patriarchal authority of the chiefs (“Chieftaincy and Kingship”, 2012). The key question that remains to be answered is how theland under traditional leaders is distributed to the people living under them.Althoughseveral policies have been proposed to address the land question at thenational level, little has been said about how the land redistribution issuewill be addressed at the lowest level of government.
In the view of Branson (2016), traditional leaders have apaternalistic approach to land distribution. Under theANC government, traditional leaders have the responsibility to rally supportfor the ANC by wielding their discretionary power over land distribution. This clientelist approach undermines ruraldevelopment and further exacerbates the poverty situation of those living undervillage chiefs.It is clearthat the discretionary distribution of land under traditional leaders has notbenefited the majority. However, to win rural area support and to stay inpower, the ANC government has courted the chieftaincy system at the expense ofthe people. At the national level; however, several policies have been proposedwith very little success. As a result, new political parties have attempted togain support by using the failure of the ANC to return land to the people. 2.
4 Previous policies and why they failedWhen the ANCgovernment took over power in 1994, it inherited a highly divided country interms of wealth and land ownership. However, the ANC government had to quickly assurethe minority white farmers that it would respect the (land rights) market-ledapproach, i.e. willing-seller willing-buyer (WS-WB). In the same light, the ANCalso used the chieftaincy system to their benefit. However, courting theinterests of minority white framers and traditional leaders has been heavily criticized.Bromley (1995), questions the morality ofthe market-based (WS-WB) approach. Expecting s to buy land that was forcefullytaken seems to build on the legacy of apartheid instead of redressing thewrongs.
To address theland issue, a series of distinct policy responses within the context of thewider national land reform programs (May andLahiff, 2007), have been put in place. The government attempted toredress the injustices of apartheid, while fostering reconciliation andstability with the land reform policies. The land reform process focused onthree areas: restitution, redistribution and land tenure reform.
As stated onthe White Paper on South Land Policy (1997),the purposes of these programs are as follows:a. LandRestitution involves returning land (or otherwise compensating victims) lostsince 19 June 1913 because of racially discriminatory laws. Qalam and Lumet (2012), advocate the view that this process was a sham. People wereunaware of the deadline closing date for lodging restitution claims at the endof 1996. Those (vast majority of forced removal victims) who registered after1996 were not considered for restitution.
Only few claims were settled, therest are yet to be settled. b. Land Redistribution makes it possiblefor poor and disadvantaged people to buy land with the help of aSettlement/Land Acquisition Grant. This done in order to redistribute 30% of oagricultural land to the rural poor. However,According Bailey (2010), the 30% of agriculturalland that was supposed to be given to previously disadvantaged people has notbeen achieved. c. Land Tenure reform aims to bring allpeople occupying land under a unitary, legally validated system of landholding.It will devise secure forms of land tenure, helpresolve tenure disputes and provide alternatives for people who are displacedin the processThe landreform policy coupled with poor resource allocation, programs implementationand agricultural support are the primary reasons for the failure of land reform(Bailey, 2010).
According to Cronje (2015), the land reform policy has beenpoorly implemented and has caused more harm than good. Firstly, itoverstressed the degree of land need whereas only about 8% of South Africanswant land to farm. Secondly, it restricts black South Africans from gainingindividual ownership of farming land. Approximately all transferred land goesto the state, the chiefs or community trusts. Thirdly, it neglects the mostessential land reform requirement which is giving individual ownership topeople with insecure customary land-use rights in the former homelands.
3. Current debateThe Southpolitical atmosphere is currently dominated by discussions and debatesregarding land. A new rhetoric that the ANC government has long been trying toavoid has sprung forth; land expropriation without compensation. This is contrary to the initial rhetoric of maintainingconfidence in the market value of land.
According to Conway-Smith (2017), the move towardexpropriation without compensation is a populist move that seeks boostdwindling ANC support ahead of the next elections.In spite ofall the developments regarding the land in the hands of the minority whitepopulation, little remains said about the land under traditional leaders.Instead of progress being made towards fair distribution of land, traditionalleaders seek to expand their power and influence. In fact, some traditionalleaders are lodging claims for more land at a time when the majority is hungryfor land. Given this trend, it is clear that the institution of traditionalleaders is not about to be phased out anytime soon. On the contrary, theinstitution of traditional leadership seems to overcomplicate an alreadycomplex situation. 4.
ConclusionSouthAfricans are crying for land restitution and not for land reform. Land inSouth Africa has little to do with class and everything to do with land,heritage and reclaiming what was stolen under colonialism, then underimperialism, and finally under apartheid. This paper argues that ifredistribution is to work at all, it needs to work at the grass-root levelfirst.
The land under traditional leaders is just as important as the landunder the white minority population. Furthermore, current debates on land redistributionshy away from discussing the issue on rural land. Rather, discussions rotatearound the land under the white minority population.
It remains tobe seen how exactly land redistribution is going to transform the lives of the majority.Studies have been conducted on the impact of land reform on the lives ofbeneficiaries. Most of these studies conclude that land reform contributes verylittle towards helping beneficiaries earn a source of revenue. The basis for this is often due to poor planning, lack ofagreement within communities, lack of skills and inadequate post-settlementsupport.
The issue of land in SouthAfrica has the potential of further destabilizing the country if not handledproperly. It seems that the issue of land will continue to dominate South Africanpolitics for years to come.