On July 30th 2019, over fifty community activists, ANC veterans, researchers, lawyers, NGOs, government officials and journalists gathered in Johannesburg for a dialogue on two bills that particularly affect people living in rural South Africa. Community activists have labelled the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill (TKLB) and the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) as the “Bantustan Bills” because they reinforce the boundaries of the old Bantustan tribal authorities. Introducing the dialogue, Khalil Goga of the Nelson Mandela Foundation warned that the bills could create a dual system of law and governance. ANC veteran Tim Wilson added that, “the struggle [against apartheid] was about one country with equal rights and everyone equal before the law. These bills are striving to make 17 million people second class citizens, under a different set of laws.” Humphrey Mugakula from Makuleke in Limpopo province remarked that the Bills do not give his community an advantage; instead “they take us back to the old boundaries of apartheid. It’s only the change of the names.”
The dialogue was organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) in collaboration with the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), a civil society organisation, and the Land Accountability Research Centre (LARC) from the University of Cape Town. The organisers stressed that a key aim of the dialogue was to offer the space for people from rural areas to speak about how the bills would affect them, based on their life experiences. Other stakeholders often belittle people from rural areas, despite the fact that they are most directly affected by the pending legislation. At this dialogue, community representatives from around the country spoke at length and with “serious expertise and depth of knowledge” (in the words of ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang). Just speaking on the bills was no easy feat. LARC researcher Aninka Claassens pointed out that many of those who speak up about the capture of resources in their communities by elites, including by traditional leaders, face threats of violence.
Report by Tara Weinberg for the Nelson Mandela Foundation