South Africa: Ingonyama Trust's Stance On Women Accessing Its Land Is an Insult and Perpetuates Colonialism

Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal (file photo).

The Ingonyama Trust says that giving women access to land it controls will undermine 'African traditions'. In insulting the women of Africa, the trust apparently does not realise that it, too, has its roots in colonialism, as do the positions of some of the chiefs.

With breathtaking arrogance, the chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust Board, Sipho Jerome Ngwenya, declared - in Women's Month - that a bill aimed at giving women access to land should not apply to land it controlled. He was supported by the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders, which agreed that giving land to women undermined "African traditions".

Such arrogance, like many other pronouncements about supposedly "African" ways, ignores the huge diversity of societies on the continent, and the way in which that heterogeneity has historically shaped access to land. It also obscures the way in which colonialism has shaped current land norms and practices.

Ironically, the trust itself, like the contemporary office of traditional leadership, is a product of colonialism. As we end Heritage Month, it is appropriate to consider the disastrous implications of these invented traditions on the status of women and their access to land.

What exactly is this "African way" to which the...

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