NCOP extends deadline for comment on traditional councils Bill

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The National Council of Provinces has extended until 27 October the deadline for comments on an amendment Bill of vital interest to rural communities that are subject to traditional leaders and the councils they dominate. (Call for comment)

The NCOP’s Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs initially set a 24-hour deadline for submissions on the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill. The Bill seeks to give illegitimate Traditional Councils an opportunity to validate themselves and, by implication, decisions they have taken without being properly constituted.

That deadline lapsed on Monday, but members of the Select Committee called almost unanimously at a meeting on Monday for an extension to allow communities and civil society a chance to study the Bill and to comment on it. That extension was confirmed at a further meeting on the next day.

The committee also received letters from at least two rural communities asking the NCOP to ensure that a transparent and thorough process of public participation is followed in the provinces.

The NCOP committee has now issued a revised call for submissions on the TLGFA amendment Bill and set up a programme for public hearings in all nine provinces between November this year and next March.

In an unprecedented step, the NCOP hearings will deal simultaneously with the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill and with the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill (TKLB), which has yet to be passed by the National Assembly.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) has from its first tabling in March presented the TLGFA amendment Bill as a technical intervention to buy time for the adoption of the TKLB.

The Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) have argued in submissions to the National Assembly’s relevant committee that the TLGFA Bill is much more than just a technical stopgap.

LARC argued that the Bill seeks to legitimise Traditional Councils that have failed to comply with legal requirements in the 13 years since the original TLGFA was enacted in 2004, and to validate decisions and contracts made by these illegitimate structures. (LARC Submission)

“LARC furthermore submits that the Bill fails to provide any real solutions to the legal and practical problems identified regarding traditional council transformation in the Bill’s Memorandum,” LARC said in its submission to the National Assembly Committee.

“Whatever its stated rationale for this Bill, government cannot escape the fact that the traditional council transformation project has failed and that most, if not all, of these structures have no valid legal status.

“This Bill cannot undo that reality or create a new opportunity to legitimise these structures inherited from apartheid or their actions over the past 13 years. Insofar as the proposed Bill is an attempt to do so, LARC rejects it in its entirety…”

The Legal Resources Centre, which acts for numerous rural communities and organisations, said in its submission that contracts and decisions by illegitimate Traditional Councils should be reversed and that accountability mechanisms should be enforced. (LRC submission)

“In many instances, traditional councils are currently controlling hugely valuable assets. While we expect companies who control the interests of their shareholders to comply to high standards of financial reporting and accountability, the Department is turning a blind eye even to the failure of traditional councils to properly constitute, let alone report on how they manage the finances of the community, their shareholders. These are the assets of communities who suffered the brunt of the apartheid system. They deserve much better,” the LRC said in its submission.

Submissions on the TLGFA amendment Bill should be sent to tmmanele@nullparliament.gov.za.

opinion-grey Senior Researcher Land and Accountability Research Centre University of Cape Town
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