Mandla A Mubecua is a PhD scholar in the Department of Development Studies at the University of Zululand, South Africa. His research interest is on women and land ownership. Mandla was selected by the National Planning Commission to participate in the National Development Plan (NDP) Review Colloquium. In the same year (2019). He was also chosen by the eThekwini Metro Municipality to contribute to the Research Symposium on Food, Water, and Energy Nexus.
Sintfu setfu (our culture): the plurality of laws and its effects on gendered land ownership in South Africa, Nkomazi Municipality
After 1994, the South African government introduced different policies and programmes that aimed to promote equal land distribution among the citizenry. In the presence of such policies, however, the country still faces disparities in land ownership among women and men. As a result, women are poorer than men because of less favourable access and control over resources. The problem of modern-day gender inequality in land ownership started when the democratic government recognised and gave traditional leaders the authority to control land. In traditional councils, the land is controlled by customary laws that are seen by many as hampering women’s rights to own land. Contrary to this, statutory law permit women to inherit, control and own land. Customary law thus contradicts women’s rights while statutory law attempts to uphold them. In the presence of the by-laws in Nkomazi, the land is likewise controlled by eight traditional authorities: Mawewe; Matsamo; Mlambo; Hhoyi; Siboshwa; Kwa-Lugedlane; Mhlaba and the Lomshiyo tribal authorities. The expression “Sintfu setfu” is a siSwati language, which means it is our culture. This concept was regularly used by the community members (majority are men) in the Nkomazi municipality during data collection of my doctorial study. The domination of people who used the expression “Sintfu setfu” drew the attention of the researcher, as a result, much exploration was further made to acquire more information about the concept. To understand the concept correctly, it is important to break down the sentence into two: the word sinftu, means culture while the concept setfu refers to ours. When someone says sinftu setfu, it means this is our culture and we stand firm for it. The question is what is the culture of the Swati people in land ownership? Swati people believe that properties have to be inherited by the older son of the household. In Nkomazi, agriculture is the dominant economic activity and not having access to land is the major factor that contributes to gendered poverty. The present study aims to explore concept (sinftu setfu) in relations to gendered difference in land ownership.
Keywords: Land, Gender, Pluralism, customary law
Affiliation: University of Zululand, South Africa