Another Bantustan Bill gets ‘King Cyril’s’ nod

Last week I was privileged to interview Zapiro about his latest cartoon collection Which Side is Up? It is a rhetorical question appended to a cartoon that caricatures “King” Cyril and “Ace” Magashule on the same classic playing card.

Of course the rhetorical question is posed to the ANC.

In the course of my interview with Zapiro he said the country was still trembling on the edge of the abyss. He referred back to the cartoon.

“The question I am asking in the front cover of the book, ‘which side is up?’ — the bad side of the ANC is irrevocably bad. I would still like to see a split. The good side is not all good. But it a thousand times better than the bad side”.

Nevertheless he was hopeful that King Cyril would nevertheless prevail. The conversation ended on a positive note.

On Thursday, in a cruel irony, we learned that King Cyril has signed into law the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill. It hands Traditional Leaders powers that have an ominous State Capture ring to them. The president has given footholds to those with a State Capture agenda in the former homeland areas, normally out of sight and mind of the media and public scrutiny.

This is where an ominous legislative agenda is still being pursued that undermines the property and citizenship rights of 18 million South Africans, making them vulnerable to dispossession by traditional leaders acting in collaboration with foreign and local companies.

Look no further than to this exposé by Scorpio earlier in 2019 for a clear illustration of how the ‘king’ cards in the deck have been clearly marked.

In a media statement issued by the Land and Accountability Research Centre at the University of Cape Town, they warn:

Civil society had anticipated that the President would refer the Bill back to Parliament after two Panel reports warned that provisions of the Bill are in breach of fundamental Constitutional rights. The first report, in 2017, was by a High Level Panel created by the Speakers of Parliament, and chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe. The second was by the President’s own Advisory Panel into Land Reform which reported earlier this year.

Numerous submissions warned that the Bill undermines the customary and informal property rights protected by section 25(6) of the Constitution, and abrogates the decision-making authority that is the hallmark of citizenship for the 18 million South Africans living in the former homelands. The President therefore had strong legal grounds on which to refer the Bill back to Parliament. He chose to ignore these.”

Despite a series of Constitutional Court judgments striking down previous such laws and upholding the right to tenure security, it appears that the ruling party remains in captivity to elite interests with the same extractive agenda that the Gupta brothers had and whose actions dispossess and further impoverish the poorest and most vulnerable South Africans.

I have no doubt that the Constitutional Court will strike down the contentious provisions of the bill. But in showing himself to have feet of clay, King Cyril has once again abdicated his own powers to the judiciary.

Judge Johann Kriegler warned at a recent Civil Society gathering hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation that the “over-judicialisation” of major issues of governance and accountability did not bode well for democracy.

Judges are not politicians. Those who populate the legislative and judicial arms of the state also swear oaths of office to uphold the constitution. Civil society would expect leadership and proactive commitment to its fundamental values. The onus is on them to prove their commitment, not on society at large to prove their failure.

The video below explains the issues at stake if the TKLB and TCB are not struck down.

Please share widely and loudly, and let’s try to get things the right way up again.

This article first appeared in Daily Maverick on 29 November 2019.

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