OPINION | The ANC should not perpetuate rural injustice
South Africa’s royalty is not strictly cultural, ceremonial and titular in the way of the Lesotho and British ones.
The difference is that the monarchs in Lesotho and Britain are the sole monarchs in their countries. The monarchs there are, constitutionally, ceremonial heads of state. They neither govern nor administrate.
The citizens democratically govern themselves according to their wishes, wants and needs.
Through their parliaments they command their monarchs to reign over them to their democratic satisfaction.
We are a single nation that has been forged out of a multi-ethnic and multiracial tapestry.
Being a young nation in the process of unification and solidification, we just cannot afford to accommodate tendencies that, through some sleight of hand and contrary to the logic of history, may push us to a state of retribalisation.
Retribalisation and reracialisation will not be countenanced by the people of this country, rural or urban. South Africans have, as a condition of existence, a permanent struggle against the residual vestiges of tribalism, as well as persistent racialism and racism.
When founding the South African Native National Congress in 1912, which became the African National Congress in 1923, our noble forebears perceived tribalism as a demon.
They blamed tribalism for the defeat and subjugation of the African people by colonists.
In fervent pursuit of the ideal of liberty through nation- building, Dr Alfred Bathini Xuma and Reverend James Calata – respectively president and secretary-general of the ANC – deprovincialised the administration organogram of the ANC by centralising it nationally, making branches the key organ in the physiology of the party.
This was done to forestall provincial allegiances which could lead to the rise of tribal fiefdoms. That administrative centralisation was visionary and sagacious.
Colonists crushed native royalty to smithereens in order to establish white domination.
That crushing was essential to establish racial social relations designed for en masse racial exploitation and subjugation of the native people.
It should be categorically stated that not even a modicum of dual governance can work between a people’s democratic republic and a multiplicity of tribal fiefdoms.
Tribal monarchies in South Africa never govern their fiefdoms independently of the SA government.
The government of South Africa has sovereignty over each and every square metre of the Republic of South Africa.
Unlike the governments of Sir Theophilus Shepstone and Dr Hendrick Frensch Verwoerd, the current South African government has no conceivable or perceptible need for kindly minions and chiefly puppets to carry out the bureaucratic machinations of the state.
In Natal, Sir Theophilus Shepstone contrived the ruse of keeping the virtually dead native royalty from reaching the state of rigor mortis so that he could extract whatever substance remained of the political, economic and administrative power of African royalty.
From Shepstone on, to all intents and purposes native kings, chiefs and headmen became bureaucratic appointees serving the colonial and apartheid governments. These regimes were the real king as they were legally the head of the native royalty.
The apartheid governor-general and later the president held the same position vis-à-vis the African royalty in South Africa.
However, the time for reigning and ruling chiefs is long over. That is precisely why the present government has extended a local level of governance, in the form of democratically elected municipalities, to the rural areas.
The rurally based people are very happy with the democratic power they exercise over themselves. Because they heartily embrace their identity and culture, they still revere their kings and chiefs without any desire for political and administrative retribalisation.
It is immoral for the government to carve out big chunks of common land for the personal possession of chiefs.
Rural people are complaining that the government allocates more of the communal land to the chiefs than to the community in a village.
When they have the power to do so, chiefs distribute land in accordance with the economic and social status of the beneficiaries. Wealthier families get better land than poorer ones and social nonentities. The chief allocates more fertile land to himself and people are used to this distribution. Those who reject this method are regarded as renegades and rebels. KD Matanzima called them amadyakophu (Jacobins).
Chiefs don’t pay for the labour of those working their lands – they merely conscript people to work their land as a patriotic duty.
Like feudal serfs, tribesmen and women dutifully work the land of the person born to rule.
Chiefs also make use of colonially-authored tribal courts to cause law offenders to work the land of chiefs as punishment for legal transgressions.
The government, in its quest for loyalty, should take care not to open up opportunities for chiefs to take advantage of our rural population as they were allowed to do by the colonial and apartheid governments.
In their new book, Africa’s Cause Must Triumph, Robert Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza record a meeting held many years ago in Kaizer Matanzima’s great place between Nelson Mandela and Matanzima.
It is said that Mandela sought the meeting in his quest to dissuade Matanzima from helping the Bantu authorities from promoting the government of Dr Verwoerd.
In that meeting, the book suggests, among other things Nelson Mandela told Matanzima: “The people want democracy, and political leadership based on merit not birth” (P77).
Moreover, it is a historical fact that modern chiefs are not philosophically guided by the egalitarian communal values of pre-colonial Africa.
They were, by colonialism and apartheid, inculcated with feudal notions of overlordship and aggressive accumulation of material wealth.
The ANC’s pliability should not open up a Pandora’s box where anachronism jostles with modernity in the hallowed arena of constitutional republicanism.
Malcolm MZ Dyani resides in Duncan Village. He was a political prisoner on Robben Island...