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Nkwinti proposes new law for communal land

11 July, 2017
Sowetan Live
By Loyiso Sidimba |

Communities across the country will soon decide how they want to administer their communal land.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has introduced the Communal Land Tenure Bill which will convert legally insecure tenure into ownership by individuals and communities that already hold some rights to land.

If passed into law, the bill will allow communities to choose an entity that will assist them in administering their communal land.

Communities can choose a traditional council, a communal property association or any other entity approved by Nkwinti to administer their land.

The Rural Development and Land Reform Department noted there were conflicts in which some entities fight with communities for control of communal land and its natural resources.

“Land administration is a contentious issue in that in the past the apartheid government used it as a control mechanism wherein entities were given land administration powers as a means to control communities,” it said.

According to the department, the apartheid government gave itself the power to appoint and dismiss traditional leaders, contrary to customary laws and practises.

But now it wants to allow communities to decide how they want their land administered.

The entity would run the affairs of the community in relation to land administration on a day-to-day basis, according to the department.

The department said it consulted the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) while drafting the bill and had proposed the NHTL also participate in debating the proposed new law.

NHTL deputy chairman Nkosi Sipho Mahlangu said they had concerns about some provisions of the bill.

He said traditional leaders will consult their subjects and incorporate their inputs into its submission.

Mahlangu said traditional councils already have land administration committees and Nkwinti’s proposed new law would create too many structures administering land. “We want the 13% of land controlled by traditional councils to remain in their control. It has always been controlled by traditional leader.”

The 13% referred to is the portion left for Africans after the passing of the Natives Land Act in 1913 by the colonial administration.

Mahlangu said the proposed new structure would amount to the government returning white native commissioners administering land on behalf of Africans.

“It would say black people cannot manage their land.”