On 28 and 29 September 2010, about ten community leaders from DA 2 attended a provincial workshop to share experiences and debate about the challenges facing the community in relation to the system of traditional leadership. The workshop was held in East London and convened by the University of Western Cape together with other civil society organisations based in the Eastern Cape Province.
Context and objectives of the workshop
Hundreds of rural communities and several civil society organisations in the Eastern Cape have been concerned about the elections of traditional councils that were held in the province on 06 March 2010. These elections were held in terms of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act (TLGFA), Act 41 of 2003. There were several problems noted with the holding of these elections: amongst others, these included evidence that rural communities did not know what the elections were about, there was poor participation in the elections, and standard democratic procedures for nomination and election of candidates were violated. These elections were a key moment that led to several organisations raising critical questions about what the law and government policies say on the status, powers, roles and functions of traditional leaders. In addition, several of the above organisations had come across several cases of traditional leaders playing roles and claiming powers with regards to service delivery, development and control over land in many rural villages across the province. All the organisations were concerned about the implications of these developments for advancing and achieving constitutional rights, citizenship, democracy, gender equality, the promotion of human rights and sustainable development in rural areas.
Given the above context, it was felt necessary that such a provincial workshop must be convened. Workshop objectives were canvassed and agreed as follows by the hosting organisations:
i. To analyse and understand experiences of Eastern Cape rural communities when it comes to roles played by traditional leaders and implications these have for democracy, rural governance, equality, citizenship, rights, access to justice, service delivery, development and control over land;
ii. To introduce civil society and community leaders in the Eastern Cape to the package of laws and relevant developments in government policies that define and effect the status, powers, roles and functions of traditional leaders, these laws being:
a. The Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, 41 of 2003;
b. The Communal Land Rights Act, 11 of 2004 (CLARA);
c. The Eastern Cape Provincial Traditional Leadership and Governance Act, 4 0f 2005 (PTLGA); and the
d. The Traditional Courts Bill, Bill 15 of 2008 (TCB).
iii. To provide a collective forum for an analysis of the implications and impacts of these laws and developments in government policies;
iv. To use the workshop to develop strategies for local engagement, legal and policy reform, litigation, and social mobilisation in response to the above; and
v. To build ongoing spaces, networks and forums for collaboration, solidarity, sharing and dissemination.
Consultation on possible joint action and way forward
Through its programme, commission discussions and resolutions, the workshop paid attention to each of these objectives. The outcomes of these discussions and resolutions proposed for consideration and endorsement by the hosting organisations as well as other relevant stakeholders. The workshop agreed that this draft report must be used as a basis for consultation, discussion and agreement on possible joint action and a way forward amongst the participating organisations as well as other organisations identified for consultation. In other words, the workshop agreed that the participating organisations must use this draft report to undertake internal consultation between 01 and 15 October 2010. The purpose of this internal consultation is to allow organisations sufficient time to express their views on this draft report and to seek mandated positions on the proposed joint actions and way forward. It was decided that after this internal consultation period the organisations would all meet soon after 15 October 2010 in order to discuss reports on the internal consultation process and decide on the next steps.
General recommendations and conclusion
The workshop also agreed to the following:
i. The establishment of an interim provincial coordinating structure that would take forward the decisions reached at the workshop. This structure would be formed by 1 delegate each from the hosting organisations as well as the Vulamasango Singene Campaign.
ii. The name: “Eastern Cape Civil Society” was proposed for the envisaged provincial coordinating structure. The role of the structure would be to facilitate consultation on, and the implementation of the workshop recommendations.
iii. The workshop underlined the need for building alliances, solidarity and collaboration with other rural communities, and other relevant organisations who were not represented at the workshop.
iv. The workshop endorsed the proposal from SANCO for a provincial march to the provincial government to submit demands in relation to the controversial 06 March 2010 traditional council elections, the TCB, the TLGFA and the roles of traditional leaders when it comes to control over land, service delivery and development. SANCO plans to have this march during November and invited other organisations to endorse and join it. The workshop committed to mobilise behind this march.
v. The workshop recommended that the struggle of the Masakhane CPA in Alice over patent rights and benefit sharing issues over the harvesting and commercialization of pelargonium must be taken up as a provincial issue given how it highlights control over natural resources and traditional knowledge. The workshop noted that parliament is currently discussing the Traditional/Indigenous Knowledge Bill. However, there was no information available about the contents and where the process is.
vi. The workshop emphasised the need for participating organisation to deepen their solidarity and joint action.
vii. The workshop resolved to approach structures of traditional leaders for their opinion on whether statements is support of ukuthwala made by Chief Mandla Mandela (statements made on 20 and 21 July 2010 during parliamentary hearings on the repeal of the Black Authorities Act of 1951) represented their views as well.