Khoisan leaders have welcomed the passage of the Traditional and Khoisan Leadership Bill, but land rights experts and activists are warning it could face a legal challenge.
The bill was passed during a special sitting of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) earlier on Thursday and was backed by all provinces except for the Democratic Alliance-led Western Cape.
It is aimed at giving recognition to Khoisan communities, leaders and structures, but also affects people living under a customary rule in the former “homelands” created under apartheid.
Chief Brendon Billings was among the Khoisan leaders who camped out at the Union Buildings late in 2018.
On Thursday, he watched as the NCOP passed the billwhich he believes will usher in a new era.
“Tears of joy come out of my eyes. I really appreciate this because you can see this government is doing something good, this recognition for the Khoisan people.”
But land rights expert Dr Aninka Claassens of the Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC) at the University of Cape Town says there’s been strong opposition to the bill, adding that the public participation process was flawed and that a legal challenge is highly likely.
“What is most worrying of all is the Bill has last-minute amendments that try to pre-empt the important legal victories that were won in October and November 2018, in relation to rural people’s land rights, and that there must be consultation and consent before their land rights can be changed.”
The Democratic Alliance’s Cathy Labuschagne says the party opposed the Bill because it entrenches old apartheid boundaries and provides for Khoisan recognition based on different criteria than that for other traditional leaders and was therefore discriminatory.
The Bill will now be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his consideration.
WATCH: ‘We are not coloureds, call us Khoisan’