Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini wants President Cryil Ramaphosa to sign an agreement promising to exclude territories that the monarch controls from a government land reform drive, the eNCA news channel reported on Monday.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is targeting white-owned land for expropriation while also seeking to provide security of tenure to the 17 million people – a third of South Africa’s population – who reside on tribal lands controlled by traditional leaders.
The king controls 2.8 million hectares under an entity called the Ingonyama Trust.
Last month a senior ANC official said the land reforms will include issuing title deeds to small-scale farmers on tribal lands, a departure from statements by Ramaphosa, who has pledged to the king that he would not to touch the land he controls.
ENCA reported that the Zulu monarch said a signed agreement on the matter was needed during an address he made to thousands of his subjects in the port city of Durban on Sunday.
“The President must come here to tell me and the Zulu nation, which I will call to gather here. He must tell us and then sign an agreement that the land of the Zulus will not be touched,” the king was quoted as saying.
In July, the king warned of conflict over the issue. Other traditional leaders also publicly told the ANC not to undermine their authority on the 13 percent of South African territory they rule.
Tribal authorities in these areas – the former homelands where most blacks were confined under apartheid – have wide powers of land allocation and curtailing their power could have implications for a range of actors including mining companies which cut deals with the chiefs to access minerals.
Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize told Reuters on Friday the government had not yet decided how land reform would happen in the tribal areas.
“We haven’t yet reached consensus. It is a somewhat slippery issue, we are still trying to find the best solution,” Mkhize said.
He said his ministry was discussing with traditional leaders and rural communities how best to ensure security of tenure for people living in tribal areas, whether through title deeds or other solutions.