South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will next week meet powerful Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini for talks on land expropriation, in a bid to defuse growing tensions over the issue.
The meeting follows a warning made by the king on Wednesday should the government annex his people’s ancestral land.
“As Zulus, we are being provoked in our ancestral land. If the government makes a mistake of taking our land, all hell will break loose,” said King Zwelithini.
The government is considering expropriating land without compensation as adopted during the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) 54th National Conference in 2017, which was passed in Parliament earlier this year.
ANC’s head of elections Fikile Mbalula on Thursday allayed fears over the proposal saying the ruling party had no intention of grabbing the Zululand.
The land is administered by the Ingonyama Trust — a corporate entity established to manage the land traditionally owned by the black South Africans — of which the Zulu monarch is the sole trustee.
Mr Mbalula said the sense of urgency in meeting the king was now more pronounced following the monarch’s comments.
“If there is any need to apologise, the ANC will,” Mr Mbalula said.
He, however, distanced the ruling party from former President Kgalema Motlanthe’s remarks that traditional leaders were behaving like “village tin-pot dictators”.
Mr Mbalula added that Motlanthe’s statement did not represent the views of the ANC.
The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) secretary-general Zolani Mkiva said they supported the expropriation without compensation, adding that the State must be the custodian of the land.
Mr Mkiva said the Ingonyama Trust was an administrative instrument with its own problems.
“The land under the administration of the Ingonyama Trust is the land under the hands of Africans. It is not stolen land. We want to make that clear. It is the land under the administration of black people,” said Mr Mkiva.
The government has formed a ministerial committee headed by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize to deliberate with traditional leaders on the land expropriation issue.