Traditional leaders an ingonyama trust are stripping women of land, in a manner the victims consider unjust.
However, the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) and traditional leaders are forcing women residents on land under its control to sign leases through male proxies, in effect removing their right to own land.
As more women revolt against the unlawful practice, which is widespread throughout KwaZulu-Natal, came to light this week in an application in the high court in Pietermaritzburg by several organisations and rural residents who want the court to halt the board’s lease programme.
The chairperson of the Rural Women’s Movement, Sizani Ngubane, a veteran rural development and gender activist, said in her affidavit that the board was “undermining the security of tenure” of residents by unlawfully “extorting’’ money from them through the lease programme. The rights of women were further undermined by the fact that some amakhosi and the board demanded that the lease be signed by a man.
“I have also heard of cases where the ITB or the inkosi insists that the lease must be in the name of whatever man they find on the property, because they assume that a man must always be the household head. This creates great difficulties if the man is just a boyfriend of the woman who owns and has established the property,’’ she said.
Ngubane said the leases had the effect of placing family land or assets in the hands of a single family member.
“Where this is a man it has a direct negative impact on the tenure security of female members of the family,’’ Ngubane said.
The conversion of customary and permission-to-occupy rights into a lease in the name of a man “formalised’’ the apartheid exclusion of women from land ownership and increased their vulnerability, she said.
“The leases issued by the ITB therefore undermine, rather than enhance, women’s security of tenure.’’
The registration of rights to a single, male, family member altered the power dynamics in families and weakened the rights of other family members.
Ngubane said she had also come across a number of cases in which widows had been evicted from family homes by their sons, who had signed leases, and their wives, because of internal family disputes.
She said that section 9 of the Constitution gave women substantive equality to men and aimed to address the disparity in access to rights, including the right to land, which this equality guaranteed.
“The action of the ITB perpetuates the ideology of male dominance.
Instead of realising the security of tenure of thousands of occupiers of trust-held land, the Ingonyama Trust is infringing them,” she said.
The women, over time, built two six-bedroom houses and outbuildings and spent R3 500 clearing a second plot, which they were given for farming. But, before they could plant, the land was given to other people by the induna, with the inkosi’s knowledge.