Message from Sizani Ngubane

I am sending you this message with very deep sadness. Our government passed the Traditional Courts Bill. We started fighting against this bill in 1998 before it was introduced to national parliament – at a time when the South African Law Reform Commission was conducting research on the Role and Functions of traditional leaders in a new democratic South Africa.

I convened a workshop on November 18 1998 for 250 rural women under the banner of Rural Women’s Movement to tackle the discussion paper circulated by the South African Law Reform Commission about the Roles and Functions of Traditional Leaders in a new democratic SA. The women from both the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party were able to work together that weekend  while their  men from these two biggest parties were at each others’ throats and while Inkatha  in partnership with the apartheid regime were slaughtering ANC people like anything.

But as women who were like the south and north in terms of politics we were able to finish the workshop without having serious problems although there were times when I was asking myself why did I invite the women from Inkatha Freedom party.

But we couldn’t have ignored their voice we needed their input because we didn’t know much about traditional leaders – the majority of traditional leaders  were members of Inkatha – those who were members of the African National Congress were in hiding.

I had invited women married to traditional leaders and their daughters and women working in what was called traditional authorities.

Women spoke with one voice: South Africa would have no space for unelected traditional leaders – as South  Africans  we would elect our own leaders.

They cited a lot of issues/problems about women’s land and property rights caused by the traditional leaders’ practices and we came up a powerful submission to the SA Law Reform Commission.

In 2012 we thought we had won the struggle when the bill lapsed.  And we came up with an article: The Traditional Courts Bill is Dead:  not being  aware that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development would bring it back to life.

This time in 2016 the Deputy Minister of the above department invited me to be part of a Reference Group of five traditional leaders, five NGO representatives and five government officials.

I was so frustrated to see the other side of the traditional leaders – when we at lunch I would hear them stating very degrading statements about LGBT communities – “I will never  allocate land to LGBT persons – if they come to my office I will bash their hearts out” and they would all be laughing and I could see they were talking about a subject they liked.

Rural Women’s Movement invested I don’t know how many funders’ resources into fighting against this traditional courts bill. All of these resources and our energy have gone down the drain. Because now that we are heading towards general elections – they chose to appease the traditional leaders not only by passing the Traditional Courts Bill bit also by passing the Traditional Khoisan Leadership Bill which will give traditional leaders the power to lease or sell community land without consulting the communities.

As NGOs we have lost the whole lot when it comes to land and property rights of women/girls.

National Parliament is passing these bills to appease the traditional leaders leading to the elections next month. They are scared that if they upset king Zwelithini all the Zulus will not vote for them – they will vote Inkatha Freedom Party.

Good memories of my Mum: this morning when I browsed the internet re news about the floods we are having in our province – I stumbled upon my Mum’s Submission which she presented  in a Public Hearing on the very same Traditional Courts Bill I think more than ten years ago – I cannot remember.

My Mum passed on four years ago. To read her words was like speaking to her personally I cried and laughed and missed her so much when I read her submission now being quoted by a Mail & Guardian journalist – it’s in the link below: I miss her sooooo  much.

With much love