The Guard

The Truth On Board

Opposing on land ownership

By Emily Setona

BETHLEHEM – During a public hearing on the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill some community members said the land belongs to the government while others said the government is just a custodian the land belongs to the chiefs and the people.

On February 13 the portfolio committee of Cooperative Governance and the office of The Premier came to the community of Dihlabeng, in Bohlokong New Hall and they were met with a majority of community members who were in support of the Independent Municipal Demarcation Authority Bill, but those who addressed the committee had differing views as to who the land belongs to.

Enoch Mlangeni from Intabawe came all the way from Harrismith to participate in this debate because he is very passionate about the land issue. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here because in the past this process used to be hidden from us and decisions were made for us behind closed doors, and we used to act out of frustrations and organize shutdowns in Harrismith.

We support this bill, but we will not allow for a situation where the municipal authority board members are chosen through cadre deployments and people who are not qualified and know nothing about our communities, we will have a problem if such a thing would happen. I am part of the royal house council in Harrismith and there are a lot of royal households in this area, the land belongs to them. The government and municipality are merely custodians. The people know the land and its boundaries,” Mlangeni said.

Community member Sebele Mohlaudi from Qwaqwa asked when the nomination process starts, and does it reach grassroots members because these are the people who know where the boundaries of their communities are.

“Usually, these nominations processes to appoint members of the authority board comes from the top down and misses members of the community at the grassroots level so my question is who will qualify to be members of the board? I support this bill wholeheartedly, but I hope that the process of appointing board members considers the fact that the people on the ground are the ones who know the boundaries of the land.” Mohlaudi said.

Kopang Kgotso from Ficksburg said that he supports this bill because this land belongs to politicians, and they are the ones who know where the boundaries between the different municipalities or wards are. “I support this bill but what I want clarity on is what factors are looked at to determine where the boundaries between the municipalities or wards will be located.

For example, the community of Rosendaal falls under the local municipality of Dihlabeng but it is located closest to Setsoto. The people of that community do their shopping in Setsoto, Ficksburg, but when they must go to home affairs, they must travel far to Bethlehem. Does the government look at people’s basic needs because according to our current government services must be close and accessible to the people,” Kgotso said.

Montseng Tsiu Chairperson of the Free State Legislature portfolio committee agriculture, rural, economic development, small business, sports, arts and culture.

In response to the public’s input Free State Legislature legal manager and advisor Puseletso Ramotheba said that she noted two questions from the speakers and answered the question regarding the nomination of board members by reading through and referring the community members to parts of section 10 in the Act and answered the question regarding the determinations regarding municipal boundary objectives by reading and referring the community to section 23 in the Act, “I urge people to read the act in their own time and I just wanted to highlight some of the points made because this is a very clear and well written piece of legislature,” Ramotheba said.

Portfolio committee chairperson Sam Mashinini encouraged the public to send their written submissions for further inputs to the Free State Legislature on or before the 29th of February and acknowledged the the majority of the people gathered there were in support of the bill.