NORTH West Premier Supra Mahumapelo accuses me of “startling untruths” (Dr Claassens is unfair, July 26) but does not specify what these are. I reiterate the following facts and invite the premier to point out which are not true.
The Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003 established a commission on traditional leadership disputes and claims to investigate the legitimacy of the traditional leaders inherited from apartheid, whose official status the act reaffirms. Initially, the commission had direct decision-making powers to avoid the familiar pattern of previous such commissions where explosive findings have been covered up and rejected by politicians as too disruptive of the status quo. However, in 2009 the act was amended and the commission’s findings were demoted to mere recommendations, which the president or premier must accept or reject.
Mahumapelo recently rejected the commission’s recommendation to depose a number of traditional leaders, but failed to provide valid reasons for doing so as required under administrative law. In fact, he did not make the commission’s reports public until stakeholders went to court and obtained judgments compelling him to do so. In one instance, that of the Bapo ba Mogale, he still has not released the report.
Many of these leaders are at the heart of controversial mining deals in platinum-rich areas. Instead, the premier has established a new commission of inquiry under a different legal process that has nothing to do with the act’s commission.
The premier inherited the problem that hundreds of millions of rand are missing from tribal accounts that have not been audited for decades. But his decision to reject the commission’s recommendations is a blow to the increasingly desperate efforts of the Bakgatla and Bapo people to escape the autocratic control of reimposed traditional leaders.
Establishing another commission cannot offset the intrinsic danger of entrenching apartheid distortions in the name of custom, which the original commission was designed to avert. Instead, it buys time for unaccountable traditional leaders and those with an interest in ensuring that mining deals on communal land and the distribution of mining revenue remain shrouded in secrecy.
This article was first published on Business Day on 29 July 2016