Moeletsi Mbeki has predicted that the African National Congress will, as part of a strategy to reverse the party’s dismal performance in the metros in the local government elections, strengthen the power of chiefs over their subjects in rural areas. Mbeki was delivering a lecture on race, class and the making of modern South Africa at Tshisimani Centre in Cape Town recently.
The South African Institute of International Affairs’ Deputy Chairman, Moeletsi Mbeki has predicted that the African National Congress will, as part of a strategy to reverse the party’s dismal performance in the metros in the local government elections, strengthen the power of chiefs over their subjects in rural areas. Mbeki was delivering a lecture on race, class and the making of modern South Africa at Tshisimani Centre in Cape Town recently.
“The chiefs are part of the repressive regime against the rural poor and with the party losing support in the metros they will want to make sure that they retain control in the rural areas. We should expect the establishment of para-militaries to deal with dissent,” said Mbeki to a crowd of about 100 people who attended the lecture.
The ANC, according to Mbeki draws most of its vote from the poor and the unemployed, who predominantly live in rural areas. The party lost support in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and the City of Johannesburg in the local government elections that was held in August last year. The rural vote remains a bulwark in its support base and has assured the ANC of national election victory. Mbeki quoted an IPSOS poll that 37% of those who are looking for work vote for the ANC. For this reason, Mbeki said, the ANC will do anything to retain its rural stronghold.
In his speech during the 20-year commemoration of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders in Bisho 2 July, the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC policy conference resolved that the party “must hold a summit with traditional leaders and other progressive forces to discuss and resolve outstanding policy issues.”
One of the issues that the traditional leaders have is the opt out clause in the Traditional Courts legislation. Earlier this year, Deputy Minister of Justice, John Jeffrey told reporters that the Traditional Courts Bill is being redrafted to address concerns that it gives too much power to the traditional leaders, particularly with respect to women. The bill was introduced to Parliament in 2008 and reintroduced in 2012.
Both versions were rejected by civil society groups as they deemed it to be establishing a separate system of law for the rural areas with no option for subjects to opt out. Power is centralised in the hands of unelected traditional leaders without mechanisms to hold them accountable, granting them even the authority to impose severe punishment, distorting living cultural practices and denying the right to legal representation.
The changes to the new bill according to the Deputy Justice Minister include an opt out clause, provisions for the promotion and protection of women and for the imposition of compensation as opposed to fines. The bill still needs to be referred to Parliament.