Traditional leaders have ‘serious reservations’ about the 2013 Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act. This is according to a media statement on Friday’s meeting between a senior delegation from the National House of Traditional Leaders and members of the inter-ministerial task team appointed last week to ‘deal with’ concerns about the future of communal land. Released yesterday, the statement quotes Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize as having said that the Act ‘should assist to empower not only government, but also traditional leaders in the usage of land’. Yet a document summarising discussions during an ‘indigenous and traditional leaders indaba with government and stakeholders’ in May last year clearly states that ‘they view it as removing their powers’ and ‘giving them’ to government officials, notes Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch.
According to the summary, at the time regulations had already been drafted transferring ‘certain functions’ provided for in the Act to the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The process of finalising these regulations was to have been informed by ‘inputs and submissions’ from traditional leaders – with the aim of arriving at secondary legislation that would ‘streamline and strengthen’ spatial planning and land use management in traditional and rural areas. Yesterday’s reference to the Act tends to suggest that no further progress has been made. It also illustrates the complexity of the issues likely to surface as government proceeds with its programme of accelerated land reform.
Land under traditional tenure or leadership features seven times in the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act. This is noting that, according to its preamble, ‘informal and traditional land use development processes are poorly integrated into formal systems of spatial planning and land use management’. Against that backdrop, traditional leadership is mentioned in the context of areas to be included in a provincial spatial development framework (section 12), ‘not previously subject to a (municipal) land use scheme’ (section 24), and requiring incremental ‘upgrading’ – a term defined as ‘the progressive introduction of administration, management (and) engineering services and land tenure rights to an area that is established outside existing planning legislation, … (which) may include any settlement or area under traditional tenure’. Section 38 prohibits the members of any house of traditional leaders from being appointed to, or continuing to serve on, a municipal planning tribunal.
According to yesterday’s press release, the inter-ministerial task team appointed to ‘deal with’ these sensitive matters forms part of ‘a bigger inter-ministerial committee on land reform’. A Presidency media statement on the committee has since confirmed that – led by Deputy President David Mabuza’ – it will ‘co-ordinate and implement measures to accelerate the redistribution of land, the extension of security of tenure, the provision of agricultural support and the redress of spatial inequality within a broad and comprehensive land redistribution and agricultural development programme’. The President ‘will … soon appoint a panel of experts to provide technical support to the … (committee) as it carries out its important task of expediting land reform through all available measures, including expropriation without compensation’.