Mandla Mandela, National Assembly Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

SANDILE MOTHA

THE Ingonyama Trust has again come under scrutiny, this time for alleged brazen disregard of the land ownership rights of rural women.  

During the first parliamentary instalment of the public hearings on the Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill (B6 – 2020) last week, it emerged that rural women continue to be victims of land deprivation by their traditional leadership councils.

“The committee so far has heard that African women were excluded from the right to ownership of their homes and land as the Customary Marriages Act only recognised a man as the head of the household  and the rightful owner of land and property,” explained Mandla Mandela, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land and Rural Development.

Women’s rights and aid organisations also submitted to the Portfolio Committee that Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) was the worst culprit disregarding women ownership rights.

Sizani Ngubane, veteran land rights and gender activist, told Inside Politics that the traditional chiefs had resorted to intimidation tactics to force women to comply.

“As it stands, the permission to occupy or lease land for agricultural use has to be signed off by   male proxies. The traditional leadership only recognise a male as the only head of the household. So in households where there are only women, this means women become landless losing their ancestral land which they owned for decades,” said Ngubane.

Ngubane, who is also a chairperson of the Rural Women Movement, said she hoped the parliamentary process would be able to get as many views as possible from rural women.

“We know that because of COVID-19 regulations, it might be difficult to get maximum views from all the affected parties. But our call is that rural women must be prioritised because the bill speaks directly on matters affecting them,” she added.

The Land Tenure Rights Bill sought to address the unfair discrimination of women in land ownership based on their gender. The matter stems from a Constitutional Court ruling in October 2018 in the matter Rahube vs Rahube.

The court ruled that an older woman couldn’t be evicted by her brother from her ancestral home.  

The applicant had quoted the Land Tenure Rights Act 112 of 1991 in challenging his sister for home ownership.

The apartheid piece of legislation allocated exclusive rights to men when it comes to land and home ownership.

The court subsequently ruled that the act violated women’s rights and directed that it should be amended.

The Ingonyama Trust is a body which was set up in 1994 to administer about 2.8 million hectares of land under traditional leadership. Its sole trustee is Zulu king Goodwill kaBhekuZulu. The Ingonyama Trust Board oversees the administrative affairs of the entity.

Board chairperson Jerome Ngwenya told MPs last week that Ingonyama Trust should be excluded from the parliamentary process.

“It is our view that the tribal land must be excluded from participating in this process,” Ngwenya told MPs.

In June, the board received a tongue lashing from MPs after it had failed to account for the R 22 million it had been allocated for the 2018/19 financial year.

Meanwhile, Phathisizwe Chiliza, chairperson of the KwaZulu -Natal House of Traditional Leaders told Inside Politics that they would not support any changes which seeks to take away birth right of traditional leadership.  

“Our stance is clear if the changes want to do away with traditional leadership birth right to their ancestral land, we will vehemently oppose it. We will not allow western ways to be forced on traditional communities,” he said.

Parliament has up until April 2021 to effect the amendments.

(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)

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