Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has called on his people to make their voices heard on the issue of land expropriation at an imbizo in Ulundi on Wednesday.
“The issue of land is a very sensitive one for the Zulu people as it is more than just about land. It is about food security, housing and political economy, amongst others, and it is for this reason that Zulus will not be pedestrians that will sit and watch while major decisions about their ancestral land are made,” Zwelithini said in a statement on Sunday.
The Zulu royal said it was “all sytems go” for the imbizo and he wanted his people to be in attendance “so that they can personally make contributions and influence legislation that will affect generations to come”.
There has been resistance from traditional leaders to transfer land to the state for redistribution and the spotlight has mainly been on the Ingonyama Trust, the sole trustee of which is Zwelithini who vowed to fight to the bitter end to protect the land controlled by the trust.
In May, Zwelithini issued a warning to the ANC that calls for expropriation of land under traditional leaders was a clear provocation which would benefit neither the ruling party nor traditional leaders.
This was after former president Kgalema Motlanthe said “traditional leaders act like village tin-pot dictators” when it comes to the land question.
Motlanthe made an example of the Ingonyama Trust, saying it was primarily to preserve the Zulu homeland but had now turned to a means of dispossessing people of their land.
“People who have lived there for generations must pay the Ingonyama Trust Board R1000 rent which escalates yearly by 10%,” said Motlanthe.
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Deputy President David Mabuza also waded into the debate by saying traditional leaders were merely custodians of the land and should stop exploiting customary rights for unscrupulous ends.
“His Majesty wants his people to personally make their submissions so that there are no two ways about what they would like to see being decided upon in order to send an unequivocal message to the powers that be,” read Sunday’s statement by the Zulu royal press office.
Zwelithini said the Ingonyama Trust land was the same to Zulus as Jerusalem was to the Palestinians and the Jews.
“In essence, this is a threat to the existence of the glorious Zulu historiography which, if the trust is stripped of the land, will effectively cease to exist,” he said.
“So, it cannot be business as usual while external forces decide our fate. People need to understand and appreciate that the trust land is part and parcel of the Zulu cultural heritage. What Jerusalem is to the Jews and the Palestinians, Mecca to the Muslims, the Ingonyama Trust land is the same to the Zulus. It belongs to the Zulus of yesteryear, today and those yet to be born,” he added.
He went further and said the issue of land was about “life and death as, without land, what will people cultivate, where will they live, what will they eat and when all is said and done, where will they be buried?”
Zwelithini wanted people far and wide to make their voices heard, “including and especially women and the youth”.
“Decisions that will have far-reaching effects for generations to come cannot and should not be left to a chosen few that could be steering an agenda does not serve the custodians of the people affected by the proposed changes,” he said.
The imbizo on Wednesday is set to begin at 10am in Ulundi.