Hansard: Second Reading debate: Black Authorities Act Repeal Bill

House: National Assembly

Date of Meeting: 01 Sep 2010


No summary available.




Thursday, 2 September 2010 Take: 103



(Second Reading debate)




Ms P C NGWENYA-MABILA: Hon Speaker, section 50 of the Constitution mandates Parliament to consider, pass, amend or reject any law. Today we debate the committee report on the Black Authorities Act Repeal Bill. As the name indicates, the Black Authorities Act was introduced to support the apartheid government's policy of separate development. The repeal of the Act is in line with democratic government's agenda to repeal all statutes in the statute book that are either redundant, obsolete or in conflict with constitutional imperatives.

The Black Authorities Act 68 of 1951 is one of those Acts that are old, obsolete and undermine the values of human rights and equality enshrined in our Constitution. Therefore the Act is not relevant to the current situation.

Our Constitution indicates that all shall enjoy equal rights irrespective of race or colour. Furthermore, section 21(3) of the Constitution states that every citizen has a right to enter, to remain in, and to reside anywhere in the republic. The Black Authorities Act undermines all of that. The Act was enacted during the apartheid era to establish tribal, regional and territorial authorities to administer the affairs of black people only, not of all South African citizens. Its intention was to keep - kafers op hulle plek - black people in their place, which were homelands. South Africa is a unitary state, racial and tribal divisions are no longer acceptable.

The Constitution requires that people's dignity be protected and respected, but the Act was aimed at controlling, dehumanising, dividing and discriminating black people in the former homelands instead of broadening constitutional values and human rights.

In a democratic dispensation, proper consultation with communities is vital on matters that affect their lives. Rural people as citizens of this country must be able to participate in the decision-making processes.

The Black Authorities Act gave the government, Chiefs and headmen a right to take decisions on behalf of rural people, which deprived them the freedom of expression as enshrined in section 16 of the Constitution - the Bill of Rights. Public participation encourages people to be more responsible for their action.

As the ANC, we resolved in Polokwane conference that we need to strengthen the voices of rural South Africans, empower rural communities and build the momentum behind agrarian change and land reform by supporting the mobilisation of rural people. Work together with progressive movements and organisations, and build forums and structures through which rural people can articulate their demands and interests. This is in line with section 18 of the Constitution, which supports the freedom of association and expression.

Rural development is a central pillar of our struggle against unemployment, poverty and inequality. High levels of rural poverty and equality inhibits the growth of our economy. Most of the rural people were dependent on subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families, but they were burdened with tax payments while they had no income. Section 6 of the Act gives the territorial authority the right to impose tax on black inhabitants.

Through the Act rural people were required to pay taxes, such as horse, tribal, poll tax, development and other taxes to tribal authorities as well as government. This means that rural people were double taxed, which contradicts the Constitution because it restricts power to levy taxes, national, provincial and local government.

The South African brutal apartheid past was based on inequalities. Women in South Africa have a history of being disadvantaged, which was built under the old laws. Patriarchal system was the business of the day. Women were made to economically depend on men. The status of women was reduced to that of a child. Women were not allowed to chair a meeting. Meetings were chaired by the commissioner or an adult male, which undermined the capacity of women and promoted the ideology of male superiority while the right to equality is the basic right in the Constitution. Women were not allowed to speak for themselves and their voices were not heard.

Furthermore, women were not allowed to own property. When a husband passed away, the elder son or a brother-in-law was to take over. This contradicts section 25(1) of the Constitution which protects the rights of every person to acquire and hold rights to property. The rights of the people are the same regardless of race, colour or sex.

With the new dispensation, women are speaking for themselves and not being represented by men as this undermines their rights. The rights of women are of equal importance as that of men.

The repeal of the Black Authorities Act will eradicate the gender discrimination and oppression. It ensures that all South Africans do indeed have equal access to opportunities and protection.

The ANC resolved in Polokwane that we need to ensure that the allocation of customary land is democratised in a manner that empowers rural women and supports the building of the democratic community structures at village level, capable of driving and co-ordinating local development processes.

Gender equality must be a critical ingredient, and an important outcome of all our programmes of rural development. Correcting the injustice of the past requires that women must increasingly become beneficiaries and decision-makers in respect of strategies to overcome poverty in rural areas.

The programme of rural development and land reform must integrate clear strategies that seek to empower the poor. Especially those who derive all or part of livelihood from productive land, in line with the Freedom Charter's call that the land shall be shared among those who work it, those critical beneficiaries of change must be rural women.

Democracy requires that citizens be continuously engaged in governance through interaction with those who make decisions. We are elected to make policies and laws on behalf of the people. We are therefore required to fulfil their mandate by ensuring continuous consultation and dialogue with citizens, whom we are representing.

The Constitution accords the public a role in parliamentary proceedings. As an activist parliamentary committee, we facilitated public involvement during the processing of this Bill. The public was invited to make written comments. Furthermore, public hearings were held whereby various stakeholders made comments on the Bill. We have heard the voices of the public. The public supports the repeal of the Black Authorities Act.

Through the repeal of the Black Authorities Act, we have nothing to lose but everything to gain as there will be transition from the old discriminatory Act to a new democratic participatory social order whereby rural people will realise their constitutional rights.

The Black Authorities act has no space in this democratic dispensation as it has no respect for people's equal rights and dignity. It cannot be part of our constitutional mandate. Therefore, it must be removed from statutory books.

The people of South Africa declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justify and claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.

I agree with the hon Minister that we will continue to review all pieces of legislation which are in our statutory books and continue to undermine the dignity of South Africans and conflicting with the Constitution as it is the supreme law of the country.

Hon Speaker, I therefore see no reason for this Act not to be repealed. I thank you. [Applause.]



Mrs A STEYN: Hon Speaker, the Black Authorities ACT Repeal Bill correctly states that, I quote:

The Act was one of the legislative cornerstones of apartheids engineering, which sought to control communities of black people. It laid the foundation for the establishment of statutory tribal, regional and territorial authorities to administer the affairs of the black people.

During apartheid millions of people were forcibly removed into separate tribes, each with their own homeland. Time and again Bantustan consolidation removals favored compliant traditional leaders, who were rewarded with large tracts of land, and punished those who resisted – by putting them under the authority of the collaborators.

Albert Luthuli wrote in his book "Let my people go" I quote:

The modes of government are a caricature. They are neither democratic nor African. This Act makes our chief, quite straightforwardly and simply, into minor puppets and agents of the big dictator. They are answerable to him and only to him, never to their people.

The DA welcomes the repeal of this Bill, but it is concerned by the distorted legacy of the Bantu Authorities Act. This Act will live on, and is in fact entrenched by other recent laws. The basis of which is the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act. The Framework Act and the new provincial laws now entrench those contested boundaries, and make it virtually impossible for groups who were put under the wrong tribal authority during apartheid to fix the problem.

The new laws enable traditional leaders to have extensive powers within this jurisdiction of boundaries. This power is not based on the key customary principle of voluntary affiliation and consensus. Instead, it is based on the apartheid precedent of the top-down statutory power within these fixed geographical boundaries.

These challenges could best be described by the stories related by rural communities during the public participation process. Representatives from Cala University gave the description of a case of two bulls in the same kraal I quote:

Although South Africa has moved from undemocratic era into a democracy in 1994, the lives of citizens living in communal area has not changed much. Unlike their counterparts in urban areas who are governed by elected municipal and ward councillors. Communal areas of South Africa have a complicated arrangement in that both municipal structures and traditional institutions have a say in rural areas.

The Ilizwe Lamafa farmers union said:

If a person wants land, you have to go to the chief and request the chief. If he wishes, he will give you land and if he does not wish so, he will not give you land. The human rights for men, children and women were and still are deprived and violated by these chieftaincies. If you are summoned by the chief and you failed to appear before him, the chief can take away your residential rights or force you to work in his mealie fields for a period. This means that rural people are subjects and not full citizens.

In most of these cases heard, the plight was not for the removal of the traditional leaders but rather a serious concern by rural communities to fight for the protection of their culture.

In conclusion, Speaker the Black Authorities Act created these tribal authorities. It disregarded individuals, families and clans living in the same area and having particular rights over the same land. Parliament must ensure that much needed consultation takes place with effected communities and that consultation is not limited to the chiefs. The DA supports the Bill. AA! [Applause.]



Mr D A KGANARE: Hon Speaker, Cope supports the repeal of this repugnant Act, whose introduction in 1951 saw the entrenchment of the divide and rule policy by the National Party government and the subsequent establishment of the Bantustans. As a consequence of this Act certain individuals were appointed as chiefs against traditional protocols. These chiefs had no legitimacy and were the rural peoples' nemesis.

By imposing themselves on rural communities as traditional leaders, they strove to enrich themselves and their families without benefitting the people. Illegitimate chiefs were generally authoritarian and megalomaniac and the people therefore rejected them.

The majority of rural areas as a result of this apartheid era legislation continue not to have infrastructure and amenities even up to the present time. People still have to walk long distances for health care and to access to clean water. The use of unsafe containers for storing water is a norm in rural areas and as nothing is being done about that, the health of rural communities has been adversely affected.

Unemployment and poverty continue to deepen and this has resulted in a massive migration of a young man living the aged, women and children in rural areas to fend for themselves.

We want to see the repeal of this Act serving us as beacon of hope to those women who are still perceived as minors and who cannot therefore enjoy land tenure rights. This is intolerable.

This act had perpetuated the stereotyping of women and girls. It was therefore difficult for women to have even a piece of land for erecting shelter. That impediment has lingered 16 years into our democracy.

However, in supporting the repeal of this Act, we are mindful that things could unravel in an undesirable way. We urge government to weigh the risks and to be adequately prepared for what may transpire. Cope supports the repeal of the Act and sheds no tears. I thank you.



Prof C T MSIMANG: Hon Speaker, the repeal of the black Authorities Act is very welcome news to the IFP. This was the cornerstone of all divisive statutes of the apartheid regime for it discriminated not only against blacks, but also divided one ethnic group from another. No wonder that all blacks, excluding those who were beneficiaries from the system, rejected it with contempt.

Despite the rejection, Dr Verwoerd as the architect of Bantustan policy travelled through the country selling his policy. He arrived in Nongoma in October 1955 to address some 300 Zulu Amakhosi who had been invited by Paramount Chief Cyprian Bhekuzulu to listen to the message of Dr Verwoerd.

After the delivery of the message, Prince Buthelezi of KwaPhindangene as one of the three spokespersons selected by the Paramount Chief to respond on behalf of the Zulu nation, confronted the fearsome Dr Verwoerd and bluntly told him that the Bantustan policy was not acceptable to the Zulus.

This catapulted Prince Buthelezi to the centre stage of national politics and the Zulu nation emissaries to persuade him to serve in the atrocious system in order to fight it from within. He was also urged by icons of the ANC, Chief Albert Luthuli and Mr OR Tambo to consider these requests positively. Although opposed to the system, he eventually accepted the offer and for 20 years between 1970 and 1990 he relentlessly fought apartheid in spite of insults and vilification. He was rewarded in 1990 when the then State President, Mr de Klerk bowed under pressure from Prince Buthelezi and other freedom fighters and dismantled apartheid, to usher in a democratic dispensation through negotiation – an instrument which prince Buthelezi had always advocated. Accordingly, the IFP supports the repeal and maintains that it is long overdue. I thank you.



Mr S Z NTAPANE: The Bill before us repeals legislation that had its origin in the desire of the apartheid state to abuse traditional leadership to advance its strategy of divide and rule.

The Act was used to unilaterally appoint traditional leaders in areas that never fell under traditional leadership – naturally the intention that those appointees would control and manipulate people according to the wishes of the then government. That legal framework was also used to strip legitimate traditional leaders of their positions.

The net result was to create divisions and social disruptions that continue to be felt to this day. Although the new legal framework does not always coherently address the realities of traditional leadership, we are more than happy to bid farewell to the old Black Authorities Act. Good riddance to this Act. The UDM supports the Bill.



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Mr S N SWART: Deputy Speaker, the ACDP support this Bill. The Black Authorities Act established statutory tribal, regional and territorial authorities to generally administer the affairs of black people, and abolished the Black Representative Council, which secured the limited voting rights that existed at the time. It was the legislative cornerstone of apartheid by means of which black people were controlled and dehumanised. The ACDP agrees that the provisions of this Act are obsolete and repugnant to the values and human rights enshrined in the Constitution, and must be repealed.

The question arises as to why it has taken such a long time to repeal this Act. We understand that there would have been unintended consequences, particularly relating to old community, regional and other tribal authorities, had the Act been repealed earlier. The Act makes provision for a sunset clause to enable KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, hopefully by 31 December 2010, to repeal those provisions that were assigned to them. After that date, this contentious Black Authorities Act will be no more. I thank you.



Mr P S SIZANI: Hon Deputy Speaker, hon members, perhaps some of you wonder why many people from rural areas continue to flock into urban areas in their numbers. I do not wonder. Do we remember, or do we refuse to do so, that there were black spots in South Africa, and that people were herded into the Bantustans in the tribal areas created by this Act? Do we remember that there were farm evictions, some of which are still with us today, in order to put kaffir op sy plek [on his place], as we continue to hear in our rural areas today?

As if this project – of making blacks the "other coloureds" of apartheid – was not enough, that regime created tribal authorities and tribes and fake tribal leaders which still characterise South African rural areas today, thus jeopardising the democratic South African landscape in rural areas to this day.

Section 2 of the Act created black tribes, and section 3 of the Act gave the State President the authority to replace governments of black people and create tribal authorities at his discretion. This was meant to administer black affairs and make black people run their own affairs under the supervision and tutelage of the white President of the time.

They removed blacks from the main body of the South African economy. The political mainstream thus disenfranchised blacks and removed their rights in general.

The current democratic state has a Constitution that upholds human dignity and entrenches such rights in the Bill of Rights. In those black spots, black people did not have any human dignity. They were herded away like animals. Nonracialism and nonsexism is entrenched in the South African Constitution today. In those days people were categorised into tribes and kaffirs.



Do you want to deny this? [Laughter.] Are you sure you want to deny that it did exists?


The South African Constitution, and not the President, enjoys supremacy. I want to repeat this point. The South African Constitution is the supreme law of the country. The President is not the supreme law. Nobody under this Constitution is above the law, not even the President, and because of that, the Constitution entrenches the rule of law. It does not allow any President at his discretion to remove a person or banish a person from any space in South Africa under the guise of a black spot.

Universal adult suffrage in South Africa gives all of us a right to vote, unlike this Act, which removed blacks from voting in their own country.

The Constitution entrenches equality before the law, equal protection by and benefit of the law, unlike Matanzima, Mphephu, Sebe and Qgozo, Mangope and all the others of the same ilk who were a law unto themselves. Their systems and structures cannot exist alongside the democratic system that we have today.

Key to the repeal of this Act is the total eradication of all vestiges of apartheid, including all undemocratic and dehumanising practices of traditional authorities against women and rural people in general.

Furthermore, the Balkanisation of South Africa cannot promote a share in the mineral resources beneath the soil, in the sea and on the land outside tribal areas. Therefore, mobilising South Africans to become their own liberators cannot be enhanced and realised in full unless we remove laws like this. We need to destroy all tribal practices that seek to weaken the progressive organisations, ideas and hegemony in a democratic South Africa.

We in the ANC appreciate that this Act is, today, an orphan, like apartheid is, and therefore we support its repeal, as nobody benefited from it. However, there are practices that were created by this Act whose legacy still exists everywhere in South Africa and we must pursue and find them. I thank you. [Applause.]



The MINISTER OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND REFORM: Hon Deputy Speaker, let me first thank the hon members for supporting this Repeal Bill. Thank you very much.

The mission of the ANC is twofold in the main. Firstly, it is to unite all South Africans across race, gender and class. Secondly, it is to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and apartheid in all their forms.

Now, since 1994, the ANC in this House and in the various legislative bodies across the country has been introducing legislation and policies to achieve this objective.

Today, this Repeal Bill is part of this process of uniting South Africans, of eradicating the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. That is why we appreciate that today we, unanimously, as members of this House, have accepted this Repeal Bill.

Lastly, it is very important for us to note that it is not going to take us 24 hours, 24 months, or even five years, to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. It is going to take a lot of time, a lot of resilience, a lot of hard work, and a lot of commitment. That's what we mean by the national democratic revolution. I sometimes hear people ask what we mean by the national democratic revolution. This is exactly what we mean. It is a process, it is going to take us a bit of time, but we are committed to it, and we will achieve our objective. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

Debate concluded.

Bill read a second time.

The MINISTER OF POLICE (Third Order) / C.I//nvs / END OF TAKE


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