The National Council of Provinces gave citizens just 24 hours from Sunday to submit comments on an amendment Bill of vital interest to rural communities subject to traditional leadership and the councils they dominate.
That deadline has already lapsed. But anyone interested to protect their rights against further encroachment by often illegitimate Traditional Councils should insist on an extension so that they can make their views known to the NCOP through its Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. They should also insist that their provincial legislatures hold accessible public hearings on the Bill.
The Select Committee called for submissions on the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill (TLGFAB) in an advertisement in the Sunday Times on 15 October, setting 16 October as the deadline.
An official said in response to questions that the call had been published a few days earlier in vernacular regional and local newspapers around the country. But the Sunday Times, with more than three million readers, remains the most effective way to reach the broadest constituency.
The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) has from its first tabling in March presented the Bill as a technical intervention to buy time for the adoption of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill (TKLB), which is also before Parliament.
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 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.
The Select Committee invited submissions within 24 hours to email@example.com. The Committee has, however, already given one organization until Friday to make its submission and is unlikely to reject requests by other people and organisations for at least a brief extension of the deadline.
This Bill should not be railroaded through Parliament on the false premise that it is merely technical.