Zuma’s ‘populist’ drive takes shape; black banks, ‘pre-colonial’ land audits

They say it’s darkest before the dawn and the radical economic transformation plan is just this. In what may amount to one of his lasting legacies, it looks as though President Jacob Zuma wants to go out on a high. And since his violence-infested State of the Nation address, his key target is land. And he’s taking the Malema route with some…so much so that he’s flouting the country’s Constitution around willy-nilly, looking for changes to allow for land expropriation without compensation. It’s a battle that also looks to be drawing a distinct line within the ruling party, with loyalists and defectors clear for all to see. In his latest tirade, President Zuma was speaking at the 20th session of the National House of Traditional Leaders. Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly provides a brilliant analysis. And says while tipping points are hard to call, this may be one that’s sent South Africa to the precipice. And by the sounds of it Zuma has had enough talk, and is calling for real action. It may well trigger another capital flight for safety, and with a country in desperate need of investment, it looks like all bets may be put off. His full speech is also below, but as Pressly says, the best bits weren’t scripted. – Stuart Lowman

Donwald Pressly, Cape Messenger editor.

COMMENT: It is difficult to make predictions about tipping points in South Africa, we always seem to be at one of those points. But today’s comments by President Jacob Zuma appear to have set South Africa on the precipice. He told elders in the National House of Traditional Leaders, meeting at Parliament, today that government would implement land takeovers “without compensation”. A pre-colonial land use audit would be carried out – he did not say where or by whom or where – which would determine whether land could be expropriated “without compensation”. The remark – which appeared to be a detour from his prepared speech which he read laboriously until this point – was underpinned by a story about his own family’s land seized by the British at Midmar dam in KwaZulu Natal. It was still owned by a white farmer and the Zuma family had to ask permission to visit the family grave site. Zuma also made populist noises about setting up a black bank which could bank black people’s money. Significantly on the same day, former Zuma faction acolyte journalist Karima Brown told eNCA that the country appeared to be in a new crisis with Zuma supporting ministers flouting the constitution willy-nilly. – DP

By Donwald Pressly*

President Jacob Zuma suddenly got into his stride when he starting talking off the cuff – during a long and boring session until then – in a speech delivered at the 20th session of the National House of Traditional Leaders.

While describing the excellent work his government had – allegedly – done in setting up industrial development zones and industrial parks all around the country, including at Coega, Richards Bay and Saldanha, he said that it was imperative that these started creating jobs “for black people”.

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, looks at a document as he attends the annual budget speech at the parliament in Cape Town. Photographer: Halden Krog/Bloomberg

But then he digressed.

He said that it was imperative that the people’s money – looking at the traditional leaders knowingly – should be in the hands of people’s banks, a black people’s bank. He said rural areas should the focus on job creation “so we can reduce the number of people who leave their areas to the cities”. Because the infrastructure in cities was “not meant for all of us” they end up staying “in informal settlements”.

“We must be innovative in creating an economy … which we control.” He said everyone had to be practical about developing rural areas. “What does this mean?…It means, we must work hard…we must stop quarrelling among ourselves. We must push government to make it easy for us to open our own banks so we have money circulating among ourselves and grow ourselves better economy and in control. That is what it is all about.”

The land question was central to the achievement of the national democratic society “and true reconciliation and empowerment of our people”. It was a central issue for traditional leaders.

Then he said that political parties with a black base should get together to pass constitutional changes  which would make a difference to land relations. He said the current system of willing seller, willing buyer had proved too expensive and unwieldy. “It made the state a price taker… in an unfair process. In addition there are too many laws dealing with land reform which causes confusion and delays.” People putting in land claims had waited for so long for these to be sorted out and delivered that they had died. So something radical needed to be done on the land reform. “You can claim land today…but the time your people get it…you will be dead.” Land hunger “is real”, he said. This was not surprising as this was the fundamental question at the centre of the liberation struggle. “Part of the reason that this becomes (central) is that the places  we were pushed through by the colonials.. the reserves…because our population has been growing…the land is not growing. Even areas to till land and cattle to graze has been reducing. The space is disappearing. It is a reality.”

Read also: Zuma’s latest blunder: Land claims should go back to the 1800s. Seriously.

“I think the time has come to fix all this…for the benefit of the citizens of the country…to attain the goal of radical social transformation in relation to land reform. We are looking at two critical actions, first we must undertake a pre-colonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation patterns, once the audit has been completed a single law should be developed to address the issue of land restitution without compensation.”

Black political parties should muster together for constitutional action

The necessary constitutional action should then be undertaken “to effect this process”. That was why “we need to accept the reality… those who are in parliament where laws are made…the black parties should unite…We need a two thirds majority to effect changes in the constitution. We can’t fight over nothing.”

It was a direct appeal to the Economic Freedom Fighters and other black opposition parties to assist his government to flout the current constitutional arrangements which protect private property.

Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), gestures during a media briefing in Alexandra township near Sandton, South Africa August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

He said he believed the National Land Claims Commission should be given the necessary powers by converting it into a Chapter 9 institution. “This will require a constitutional amendment,” he said. “All of this will require unity and common purpose and action in the country to ensure redress and meaningful reconciliation, not artificial reconciliation.”

These were not “land grabs” and the government and the governing party, the African National Congress, did not want anything untoward or disorderly to happen as a consequence of the new land policies. “Naturally government and the governing party would want to ensure that this is an orderly process. We do not support chaos and illegal land grabs. Actions must be informed by the constitution and the laws of the land.” He repeated that paragraph. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane dubbed the president’s stance on land reform as “rogue” and out of line with ANC policies.

Unity of black purpose, Zuma urges

“The parties that represent the historically disadvantaged people must unite on these matters so that we have sufficient majority in parliament legally to take these decisions,” he said, to clapping from the traditional leaders. “This decision must be taken and it must be taken democratically. It must be done by the majority to correct the wrongs… it is absolutely important. I want to stress this point to the traditional leaders. All of us should unite and speak in one voice and have the same purpose. No one will help us but ourselves.”

He referred to his own family’s dispossession. At Midmar dam, past Maritzburg on the way to Howick. This was “Zulu land” where his ancestors were buried. “The small town that you go through called Howick… the British came to us.. one of my great-grandfathers and asked permission to build that small town.” Now his family had to ask the white farmer for permission to visit graves. When the farmer did not give them permission, they were unable to visit the graves.

Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini

Significantly, on the same day that President Zuma rewrote land policy in South Africa, journalist Karima Brown – who was once seen as a flunky supreme of the Zuma faction in government – said that the country was facing a new crisis with ministers supporting Zuma in cabinet following his lead by taking unconstitutional action. The Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini failed to appear in Parliament for a Standing Committee Committee on Public Accounts hearing into the social grants fiasco – because she was with Zuma on a visit to Shoshanguve. This was despite the fact that 17 million social grant beneficiaries may not get paid on 1 April because the current provider’s contract will have come to an end. There was the added problem that the contract with the provider has been declared unconstitutional.

Despite this Dlamini was absent in action, Brown pointed out. She pointed out that Dlamini was a key agent of the Zuma faction in the national cabinet. Dlamini, who is also president of the ANC Women’s League, regularly appeared with President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at events and she just so happened to be also campaigning for her to succeed Zuma. Dlamini-Zuma is Zuma’s choice as his successor as ANC president at the elective conference of the governing party at the end of the year, Brown noted.

Maybe South Africa is at a tipping point when even former praise singers stop singing the praises of the president.

  • Donwald Pressly is the driving force behind Cape Messenger.


President Jacob Zuma address:

Sanibonani, Dumelang, Thobela, Avuxeni, Ndimatsheloni, Molweni, Goeie More, Good Morning, Lotjhani!!

I greet you all on this important occasion of the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders for its 2017/18 business.

The National House of Traditional Leaders marks its twentieth anniversary this year, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic. We congratulate all traditional leaders for their contribution to the work of the House in the past two decades.

President Jacob Zuma, March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Honourable Chairperson,

The year 2017 is the year of isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Oliver Reginald Tambo. He would have turned 100 years old this year had he lived. We have declared it the year of deepening unity amongst all South Africans,  in the memory of this great liberation hero, who wanted only the best for his country.

It is also the year of advancing radical socio-economic transformation towards economic liberation, which has been our mission for more than a century.

It is also the year of honouring those who sacrificed for this country. On 21 February, we marked the centenary of the sinking of the troopship the SS Mendi in which more than 600 black soldiers perished on their way to the First World War.

Their sacrifice is a reminder of our brutal past and highlights the fact that South Africa must celebrate the tremendous strides we have made towards building a National Democratic Society, a society that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous.

Honourable Members as we look back on the past 20 years, we appreciate the progress that has been made in building and harmonizing the working relationship between government and the institution of traditional leadership.

The Houses or structures of traditional leaders have been established in the provinces.

The apartheid-era Tribal Authorities were transformed into Traditional Councils. We established the Department of Traditional Affairs, thus acknowledging the importance of the institution in our democracy.

We are pleased with the participation of traditional leaders in municipalities and also in structures such as the South African National Aids Council and other forums aimed at improving the lives of our people.

Following last year’s local government elections, for the first time traditional leaders participated in the Councillor Induction Programme.

King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu

Progress has also been made in the resolution of disputes and claims of traditional leadership, from one thousand two hundred and forty four in 2010 to one hundred and sixty nine in 2015. This has been a difficult and sensitive process.

Together we have also assessed the state of governance of traditional leadership institution and have introduced legislation and policies to enhance and improve its standing and operations.

There has been the development of legislation like the Customary Courts Bill as well as the Traditional and KhoiSan Leadership Bill.

The Customary Courts Bill aims to provide a uniform legislative framework for the structure and functioning of traditional courts, in line with the constitution and to affirm the values of customary law and customs in the resolution of disputes. It also seeks to achieve restorative justice in dispute resolution, promote co-existence, peace and harmony in the communities and to promote and preserve traditions, customs and cultural practices.

The concerns of women must be noted in the finalisation of the Bill, as it must not violate their rights or dignity in any way in its implementation.

The Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill seeks to provide for the recognition of traditional and Khoi-San communities, their leadership and roles as well as the establishment of provincial houses and National House of Traditional and Khoi-San leaders and traditional councils.

San people starting a fire by hand

The House has rolled out the National House socio-economic outreach programs.

Importantly, the initiation policy has been developed in order to save the lives of our boys and young men when they undertake the passage to manhood.

We cannot continue losing our youth in this painful manner.

There is also continuous engagement with government on issues of mutual concern.

This is good progress indeed, although a lot of other matters also remain as we continue to build the institution of traditional leadership together.

Some issues still require attention.

The National House of Traditional Leaders must attend to the unending disputes within the institution of traditional leadership. These disputes retard development and social cohesion.

One mechanism of ending disputes is to assist royal families to understand their roles in relation to the roles of the traditional councils.

Honourable Chair,

With respect to governance, we invite traditional leaders to work with government to make the Back to Basics local government revitalization programme successful.

Municipalities in rural areas will benefit from the support traditional leaders and structures in the implementation of programmes.

The National House working with Provincial and Local Houses of Traditional Leaders must also look at those traditional leadership councils that are not functional as per the assessment and develop a mechanism to assist them.

It is also vital that traditional leaders participate in policy development, implementation and monitoring. The influence of traditional leaders on government policy will ensure that we do not lose some of the culture, customs and traditions that define who we are as African people.

At the same time, we also need a review of the cultures and customs that are considered to be harmful such as child marriages, forced marriages or forced relationships that violate the rights of women and girl children.

Honourable Chairperson

As we are aware, South Africa is a very youthful country, and this House has a responsibility to develop young leadership talent among young traditional leaders and royals.

We are fortunate to have experienced and seasoned traditional leaders who can mentor and provide guidance to young leaders, such as Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi as well as Kgosi Suping.

This will enhance the restoration of dignity to our traditional leaders and the institution of traditional leadership.


In the State of the Nation Address we emphasized the need for radical socio-economic transformation. This has been the mission of the governing party for decades as articulated in the Freedom Charter that the people shall share in the country’s wealth.

We have declared 2017 the year of implementing this vision in a more practical and visible manner.

President Tambo and indeed leaders of the ANC before him, spoke clearly about this mission of economic emancipation.

Addressing the first Congress of the Angolan ruling party the MPLA on 12 December 1977, he said:

“We of the African National Congress visualise a South Africa in which the people shall govern, in which the wealth of the country shall be restored to the people and where the land shall be shared among those who work it.

“We aim to establish in our country a society free of the exploitation of man by man’.

The governing party declared at the last national conference in Mangaung in 2012, that we had entered the second phase in our transition from Apartheid colonialism to a National Democratic Society.

They said that this phase would be characterised by more radical policies and decisive action to effect socio-economic transformation.

Today I wish to appeal to the traditional leaders to join us on this journey. Access to economic power is a key grievance of our people at this stage of our liberation.

We will forge ahead to ensure that the ideals of transformation become reality through practical programmes. We have produced enough policy documents and Bills. Now is the time for action and not talking, writing or analysing.

In the State of the Nation Address we gave the definition of this transformation as meaning fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.

Ministers and Deputy Ministers will periodically give me reports on what they have done to ensure radical socio-economic transformation in their departments, to ensure the empowerment of black people, and Africans in particular.

We urge our Traditional leaders to use this opportunity to bring about economic stability and cultural development in rural areas.

There are many opportunities. Heritage sites ought to be developed in an effort to contribute to local economies, through the promotion of cultural tourism.

The Department of Arts and Culture as well as Small Business Development will play a critical role in ensuring the realization of such partnerships and development, as part of developing thriving rural economies.

Government is also actively involved in revitalising industrial parks, some of which are in rural areas and former homeland areas, to bring work opportunities closer to the people in rural areas and townships.

To date the Department of Trade and Industry has approved in excess of two hundred and eighty million rand for revitalizing eight of these industrial parks, and ten have been have been identified for revitalisation.

Four of the parks have been launched after the completion of the first phase of the revitalisation programme. These are the Seshego Industrial Park in Limpopo, Botshabelo Industrial Park in the Free State, Isithebe Industrial Park in KZN and Komani Industrial Park in the Eastern Cape.

We are also expanding the Special Economic Zones Programme, including the former industrial development zones or IDZs. The special projects continue to play an important role in the attraction of foreign and domestic direct investment into the economy. To date, eight zones have been designated across the country.

These are Coega and East London IDZs in the Eastern Cape, Dube TradePort and Richards Bay IDZs in KwaZulu-Natal, OR Tambo IDZ in Gauteng, Saldanha Bay IDZ in the Western Cape, Maluti-a-Phofung IDZ in the Free State, and Musina-Makhado SEZ in Limpopo.

The operational zones have attracted a total of 69 investment projects which are already on site with a combined investment value of nine point four billion rand.

In addition, there are already signed investment projects which are being prepared for roll-out with a total investment value of forty one billion rand.

The industrial parks and special economic zones must help us create jobs. They must also provide business opportunities for companies owned by black people.


Honourable Members,

The land question is central to the achievement of a National Democratic Society and true reconciliation and empowerment of our people. It is a central issue for traditional leaders.


We have identified the weaknesses in the land restitution and redistribution programme. The willing buyer, willing seller principle did not work effectively. It made the State a price taker in an unfair process. In addition, there are too many laws dealing with land reform which causes confusion and delays.

The fact remains that land hunger is real. This is not surprising as this was the fundamental question at the centre of the liberation struggle.

To attain the goal of radical socio-economic transformation in relation to land reform, we are looking at two critical actions;

First we must undertake a pre-colonial audit of land ownership, use and occupation patterns. Once the audit has been completed, a single law should be developed to address the issue of land restitution without compensation.

The necessary constitutional amendments would then be undertaken to effect this process.


We are also looking at the possible re-design and establishment of the National Land Claims Commission as a Chapter 9 Institution, so that it can have the necessary powers to help us reverse this historical injustice. This would also require a Constitutional amendment.

All of this will require unity and common purpose and action in the country, to ensure redress and meaningful reconciliation.

Naturally government and the governing party would want to ensure that this is an orderly process. We do not support chaos and illegal land grabs. Actions must be informed by the Constitution and the laws of the land.

In the meantime land reform continues on the basis of existing laws.

We urge our people that when land is made available it should be utilised to produce food so that we fight hunger and poverty. Government has committed itself to support black smallholder farmers.

To date, an estimated amount of 2.5 billion rand was made available for the provision of livestock feed, water infrastructure, drilling, equipping and refurbishment of boreholes, auction sales and other interventions.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries continues to support food production by women in rural areas and other subsistence farmers through the programme called Fetsa Tlala or Xoshindlala that we launched a few years ago.

Last week we launched the Operation Phakisa programme to improve the performance of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform.

Image courtesy of Twitter @iGazette_SA

A lot of good work has been done by government, business, labour, academia, professional organisations and agricultural organisations to boost our agriculture sector.

We impressed upon them to ensure that land reform and black advancement in agriculture feature prominently in the work of this Phakisa programme as well.

By the time the various sectors sign an agreement in July this year, the outcome must be one that advances radical economic transformation.  It should not be business as usual.

Honourable Chairperson,

Another key grievance of our people that I want to share with traditional leaders for support, is the high crime levels in residential areas.

crimeThere are communities where people cannot even walk freely in the streets because of marauding gangs. I visited Nyanga and Soshanguve townships and I am worried by what I heard from the communities and the police. Crime is serious and we must work together to eradicate it.

Our people cannot co-exist with crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, hijackings, robbery, rape and all other horrible crimes. Let us refuse to tolerate crime. We have tolerated it for too long.

I will be visiting other communities to provide support and to ensure that work is being done to make our people safer.

I look forward to working with our traditional leaders in this campaign to make our people safer from these ruthless gangs.


We also seek the support of traditional leaders as we deal with another key grievance that we have received from our people, the need for our government to manage migration better than we are doing currently.

Some of the tensions that cause violence sometimes between our people and foreign nationals including brothers and sisters from the continent, arise from problems that need to be solved.

We have received complaints that government must improve the management of the borders and curb illegal migration, as it is dangerous not to know who is in the country and what they are doing. This is true.

There is no country in the world that encourages or freely allows illegal migration. South Africans cannot be expected to be different in this regard.

Substantial progress has been made towards the establishment of the Border Management Authority which will be responsible for border law enforcement in the entire border environment and at Ports of Entry.

The BMA is being established to facilitate and manage the movement of people and goods in a safe and secure border environment and under a highly capable, integrated and command and control-driven national border law enforcement organ of state.

We are convinced that this institution will greatly enhance our work in managing our borders and migration.

We have also received complaints about the employment of illegal immigrants. The Department of Home Affairs is working on this matter and will be cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants.

The Department has also indicated that they are working hard to differentiate between refugees and asylum seekers and economic refugees.

Government will continue to provide humane assistance to all refugees and asylum seekers in our country.

We recently opened the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre in Pretoria to improve efficiency and support to refugees and asylum seekers.

As part of promoting economic opportunities for our people, we made a call to Provincial governments and municipalities to work with government to revitalize township and rural economies, including in particular the general dealers and spaza shops.

We are aware that the ownership and management of the tuck shops and spaza shops is another bone of contention between citizens and foreign nationals in many townships.  We do not want to dismiss this grievance by saying people are xenophobic.

We have to ensure that the competition for scarce economic opportunities and resources does not cause serious tensions and violence.


Another grievance from locals is the hijacking of buildings and some houses which are used as drug dens and brothels which involve child prostitution and trafficking. Government, through the InterMinisterial Committee on Migration, is looking into every grievance in order to find lasting solutions.

As we undertake these investigations and discussions, we appeal to our people not to allow the actions of a few criminals to turn them against their brothers and sisters who are here legally, who are law abiding and who contribute to our socio-economic development programme.

We have been living together for decades peacefully and harmoniously even at the height of apartheid oppression.

We also appeal to all non-nationals to ensure that they respect the laws of the land. Involvement in criminal activities will not be tolerated and will be dealt with according to the laws of the country.

I will be meeting Premiers and the South African Local Government Association on the 10th of March, in the President’s Coordinating Council.

We will receive a report from the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migration among other issues on the agenda. We have to work together as the three spheres of government to find solutions.

Chairperson and our leaders,

I know that you are likely to be worried about the payment of social grants from the next financial year given media reports.

Social grants or social assistance are our most effective poverty alleviation programme as the democratic government.

We are proud of the progress we have made in putting many families out of poverty and misery, especially the elderly, persons with disability as well as orphans and vulnerable children.

I have confidence in the Ministers of Social Development and Finance. They are working hard with the support of their colleagues in Cabinet, to ensure that all our close to 17 million beneficiaries receive their grants.

We have continued with this programme in spite of criticisms and opposition to many who say it creates dependency, because we know the importance of ensuring that poor and the vulnerable, are able to put food on the table.

Siyabathmbisa bonke abathola izibonelelo zikahulumeni, ukuthi uhulumeni wenza konke okusemandleni ukuthi bayithole imali yabo ekupheleni kwenyanga.

Honourable Chair and Honourable Members,

When we last met the country was in the grip of a serious drought. The situation has improved in most provinces except here in the Western Cape. In the recent days we have realised that the dams are declining by more than two percent week on week in the province.

The water restrictions that are in place have not resulted in any serious savings. The Department of Water and Sanitation will be tightening water regulations in municipalities across the province.

The agricultural sector has been informed of ten percent additional water restrictions in order to curb excessive water use. The water restrictions will remain until the dams fill up to 85% of their capacity.

Additional or alternate water sources need to be found including the recycling of rain, grey and black water, drilling of boreholes where there is significant potential in groundwater and the effective implementation of water conservation and demand management programmes, including the War on Leaks programme. National government will continue to support the Western Cape during this difficult period.

Constitutional Court of South Africa

We urge provinces that have had good rains to remember that water must not be taken for granted. We must save water even when we think we have it in abundance.

Honourable Members,

We congratulate you once again on the 20 years of this august House and 20 years of the national Constitution.

We look forward to another 20 successful years of working together to achieve economic freedom for our people. It is an achievable goal.

We shall overcome as we did in 1994.

Together we move South Africa forward.

I thank you.

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