South Africa: The Traditional Khoisan Leadership Bill - President Signs Away Rural People's Rights

President Cyril Ramaphosa (file photo).

On Thursday, Parliament announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa had signed the Traditional Khoisan Leadership Bill on 20 November 2019, thereby robbing millions of people living in rural areas of fundamental rights and shoring up the power of unelected and predominantly male traditional leaders against women in particular.

For many months land rights activists have been appealing to President Cyril Ramaphosa not to sign the Traditional Khoisan Leadership Bill (TKLB). A coalition, #StopTheBantustanBills, formed by the Alliance for Rural Democracy, even launched a petition earlier this year. However, the opposition was not limited to grass-roots activists. In July, the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) hosted a meeting to discuss the bills that drew together concerned people from across sectors.

At that meeting, there was already a palpable fear of a looming betrayal. To help people understand its implication, the TKLB was contextualised by community activists from Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and North West. Each told of their struggles to resist local land grabs, usually being led by an unholy alliance of senior ANC politicians, traditional leaders and mining companies.

Sabelo Dladla from KwaZulu-Natal told of his community's struggles against Tendele Coal Mining, an open cast anthracite mine that had first been...

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