Hundreds of protesters have made their way to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, in a demonstration against the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill. The controversial legal documents – also known as the “Bantustan Bills” – will be signed into law by the president, barring a last-minute change of heart.
#stopthebantustanbills The Alliance for Rural Democracy marches to the Union Buildings on 5 June to demand:
• overhaul of Traditional Courts Bill
• President Ramaphosa not sign TKLB
• recognise rural people as citizens rather than subjects of bantustan governance pic.twitter.com/PuChx9iQGm
— Knowledgebase.land (@KnowledgebaseL) June 3, 2019
According to the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), the ruling could negatively effect around 18 million South Africans. But what are its major controversies, and why is it seen as such a disaster? Allow us to explain.
What are the Bantustan Bills?
This legislation aims to transfer more power to local traditional leaders in rural communities. On the surface, it sounds pretty amicable – but the clauses in the so-called contract have the potential to strip other citizens of their land and property.
As Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane told the Mail and Guardian, chiefs in these regions would be given the authority to sign over people’s land in any way they see fit. They would be allowed to bypass the letter of the law and crudely expropriate land at the request of farm developers or corporations looking to seize control.
Critics rally against Bantustan Bills
The ARD is part of the protests on Wednesday, and they are spitting feathers over the situation. In a strongly-worded statement issued before the march, they blasted the government for allowing apartheid-era rules to creep back into 21st-century policy:
“These bills will have the sum effect of allowing traditional leaders – not always elected or recognised by the people – to dictate how communal land is used, allocated and accessed in the interest of corporate greed.”
“These Bantustan Bills are a threat to democracy and social justice for 18 million South Africans. They will also have the added consequence of harming rural women the most, owing to the sharp intersection of capitalist exploitation, corruption and patriarchy.”
— LARC (@LarcUCT) June 5, 2019
How we got to this point
These Bantustan Bills have had a long and troubled history. They have been re-proposed and withdrawn numerous times during Jacob Zuma’s term as president. After being re-tabled in 2017, the National Council of Provinces approved the updated version, leaving Ramaphosa with the executive decision of signing on the dotted line.
Once he approves of the legislation, it will be signed into law. Despite the criticism that the whole structure of the document is unconstitutional, these local communities would be increasingly at the mercy of “traditional” rulers.