Devastation in Durban

12 April 2022: Flood-damaged homes in eNkanini shack settlement in Cato Crest, Durban.

The openly kleptocratic faction of the ANC has always had its strongest base in Durban. This is the city from which the late John Mchunu used his position as the regional chairperson of the party to organise the campaign that took Jacob Zuma to the presidency. In the Zuma years, the extent to which the country was run from Durban was significant.

It is here that the axe of day-to-day political repression falls hardest, and most frequently. Violence and the threat of violence have been normalised. In much of the city, automatic weapons are now an unremarked on and ordinary feature of political meetings.

Activists have their homes burnt, are beaten, tortured, arrested and jailed for long periods on farcically bogus charges and, all too often, murdered. The izinkabi, party thugs, the police and now elements in the prosecuting authority operate together to protect the political mafia that has captured the ANC and the City Hall.

That mafia has institutionalised itself in the city’s procurement policies and in the party’s structures in the wards where there is now formal accommodation for the “business forums” that seek to capture public money in the name of “radical economic transformation”.

The election of Zandile Gumede as the eThekwini regional chairperson of the ANC is a clear signal that, despite the party’s significant setback at the polls, its most brazen mafia – the radical economic transformation faction in Durban – are not beating any sort of strategic retreat.

The capture of governance by a mafia has many consequences, including the murder of activists. Another of those consequences is that money collected and allocated for social purposes – such as building and maintaining infrastructure, providing housing and so on – is appropriated for the private enrichment of a small, politically connected elite.

Every rand that goes into another McMansion in uMhlanga, or on another Italian sports car, is a rand taken away from building houses, or even the more modest work of making shack settlements a little safer and more liveable.

Lives made in mud

Durban’s hilly terrain means there is open land for impoverished people to occupy within the city, close to schools and opportunities for work. Here, shack settlements are not always on the urban periphery. But this terrain also means that large numbers of people often live together on steep slopes. Many settlements are alongside the streams that run through the valleys, streams that turn rapidly into torrents of angry water when heavy rain lands on hard surfaces without adequate drainage and rushes down slopes denuded of vegetation by the construction of shacks.

Even ordinary levels of rain turn these settlements into waterlogged places sitting on mud considerably higher than ankle-deep. It is standard for people’s homes to be full of water and mud, with water running under their beds. This is extremely uncomfortable. Residents often spend days with plastic bags tied over their shoes. Navigating steep slopes that have turned to thick mud is particularly dangerous for older people. Broken limbs are common.

The fact that the municipality has not bothered to pave paths and install basic drainage in the settlements is just one sign, among many, of the systemic contempt with which impoverished people are treated. Its failure to collect rubbish from these areas is another. And the drainage that does exist around shack settlements, built for the adjacent suburbs, gets blocked quickly when rain carries uncollected refuse into poorly maintained drainage systems.

The weather has not been an entirely natural phenomenon for a long time, since humans first began cutting down the vast forests that once covered much of Europe and North America. The scale of human impact on the weather and broader climate systems escalated rapidly with the onset of industrialisation driven by fossil fuels. But while the worsening climate crisis requires urgent attention, we cannot say that a particular municipality is responsible for the amount of rain that falls in its jurisdiction.

A politics of contempt

But the failure to make provision to keep people safe when the rain does come, to maintain existing infrastructure and to build new infrastructure, is the full and direct responsibility of those who allocate and oversee municipal expenditure.

In the same way that the tuberculosis epidemic and shack fires are a material expression of a politics of elite contempt, so too is much of the damage wreaked by floods. We can’t stop the rain, but we can prepare for it in a way that assumes the equal dignity and equal value of the lives of all residents.

But without a decisive political shift, the cycle of fire and flood will continue to shape the lives of impoverished people. Durban has by far the most extensive and impressive forms of popular organisation in the country. But while such organisation has defended much and won much, it has not acquired the strength to dislodge the political mafia that runs the city.

Nationally, it is on the Right that new forces are emerging and cohering on the terrain of electoral politics. As is common in much of the world, the deliberate incitement of and pandering to xenophobia has become a key technique for the Right to build political vehicles that exploit people’s suffering for electoral gains while aligning with the same forces that produce and sustain that suffering.

It is the Right that is currently best placed to profit from the decline in the standing and power of the ANC. Well-intentioned top-down initiatives, from non-governmental organisations to activists last rooted in popular organising in the 1980s, will not change this. Popular democratic power is always built from below. Right now the task of building mutually respectful alliances between the mass-based organisations of the Left, alliances rooted in practical forms of solidarity, could hardly be a more urgent starting point for the project to rebuild the Left as a national force.

This article was first published by New Frame.

(Photo Credit: Rogan Ward / New Frame)

In South Africa, the Court decides wealth cannot override the fundamental rights of First Nations Peoples

 

For the past few years, Amazon has said it’s building its new African headquarters in a neighborhood of Cape Town called Observatory. The site, known as the River Club site, is at the confluence of the Liesbeek and the Black Rivers. It’s a flood plain that had been zoned for Open Space and conservation. None of that mattered to Amazon and its partners, who proceeded to purchase property, permits and politicians, and three years ago began development of an urban park filled with ten-story buildings, the Two Rivers Urban Park, or TRUP. That flood plain is also sacred space for the indigenous Goringhaicona Khoi and San First Nation peoples. On Friday, March 18, Western Cape Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath temporarily but fully stopped all development and construction on the site. Why? The developers failed to consult with the Goringhaicona Khoi and San First Nation peoples: “There had not been meaningful consultation with First Nation groups.” Some version of that statement figures repeatedly throughout the discussion and conclusion.

Judge Goliath’s conclusion begins, “The matter ultimately concerns the rights of indigenous peoples. The fact that the development has substantial economic, infrastructural and public benefits can never override the fundamental rights of First Nations Peoples. First Nations Peoples have a deep, sacred linkage to the development site through lineage, oral history, past history and narratives, indigenous knowledge systems, living heritage and collective memory. The TRUP site is therefore central to the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the First Nations Peoples. I am of the view that the fundamental right to culture and heritage of Indigenous Groups, more particularly the Khoi and San First Nations People, are under threat in the absence of proper consultation, and that the construction of the River Club development should stop immediately, pending compliance with the fundamental requirement. I am satisfied that the Applicants had established a prima facie right, and a reasonable apprehension of irreparable damage and imminent harm if an interim interdict is not granted. I am further satisfied that the balance of convenience favour the granting of an interim interdict, and is the only appropriate remedy in the circumstances. In my view, Applicants have shown, on the evidence and the law, compliance with all the requirements for interim relief … I am accordingly satisfied that it is constitutionally appropriate to grant an interim interdict.”

The developers tried everything, from creating tension among First Nations Peoples to claiming they had conducted an impartial consultative and review process. None of that worked in Judge Goliath’s court. What mattered was the evidence and, equally, that the dignity of the First Nations People be respected.

In 1510, on the site of the Two Rivers Urban Park, wherein River Club is located, a Portuguese party tried to steal cattle from the Goringhaicona Khoi. The Khoi repelled them. A larger Portuguese force returned, to `teach the Khoi’ a lesson. The Khoi warriors soundly defeated the Portuguese, killing 64 Europeans, including their leader and eleven captains: “This devastating defeat put pause to Portugal’s run of victories in Africa and Asia.” In 1659, on the same site, the First Khoi-Dutch War ended with a resounding defeat of the Khoi. This established the rule of the Dutch East India Company, and began centuries of dispossession, immiseration and enslavement for the Khoi Peoples.

From the first announcement of Amazon’s intention, representatives of the Khoi and San Peoples argued that these specific sites are “holders of memory”. On Friday, Judge Goliath agreed. Khoi, San and their allies are celebrating and preparing for the next stages. As Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council Commissioner Tauriq Jenkins said, “We are celebrating at the epicentre of liberation and resistance in defence of our country. We welcome everyone who would like to join us as we acknowledge the halting of the current destruction on the site.” There is no reconstruction without consultation. Spread the word far and wide: Wealth and power cannot override fundamental rights.

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit 1: GroundUp / Marecia Damons) (Photo Credit 2: Leon Lestrade / African News Agency / Weekend Argus)

In South Africa, a victory for Jane Bwanya, the Constitution, and equality for all!

Jane Bwanya

South Africa’s Bill of Rights, Chapter 2 of its Constitution, begins its enumeration of rights with Equality: “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” Equality is followed immediately by Human Dignity: “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.” These are the first articulations of “everyone” in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Last year, Jane Bwana, a domestic worker, a lifelong partner, a widow, challenged the meaning and substance of “everyone” … and on December 31, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled in her favor, and in favor of equality and Constitutional rights. This is the story of Jane Bwanya.

Jane Bwanya migrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa. In 2014, she was at a taxi rank in the posh Camps Bay neighborhood of Cape Town. She was on her way to send goods to her family in Zimbabwe. She was laden with various boxes and packages, when Anthony Ruch, a wealthy businessman, stopped and offered her a lift. She accepted the offer, and they never separated. Months later, at Ruch’s insistence, Jane Bwanya moved into his Camps Bay residence, although she continued to work as a domestic worker. Jane Bwanya and Anthony Ruch celebrated their relationship publicly, attending social functions together, identifying each in public as life partners. By October 2015, they said they were planning to get married. They were also planning to open a cleaning business together. In November 2015, Anthony Ruch proposed marriage to Jane Bwanya. Anthony Ruch sold property so as to pay for lobola and arranged for a trip to Zimbabwe, to meet the family and finalize arrangements. They planned to marry after the trip to Zimbabwe. That trip was planned for June 2016. On April 23, 2016, Anthony Ruch died. His will named his mother as his sole heir. His mother died in 2013.

Jane Bwanya filed two claims, one for maintenance the other for inheritance, as a permanent life partner. The executor of the estate rejected both claims, basically stating that the Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act and the Intestate Succession Act did not allow for opposite-sex life partners, and so, with the help of the Women’s Legal Centre, Jane Bwanya sued, arguing that the exclusions were unconstitutional. And so, Jane Bwanya sued for, and in the name of, equality and dignity. Everyone.

Writing for the majority, Justice Mbuyiseli Russel Madlanga noted, the rights, equality and dignity of same-sex survivors had already been established. According to the court, according to the 2016 census, “3.2 million South African were cohabiting outside of marriage and that number was … increasing.” Throughout his opinion, Justice Madlanga insisted [a] that the Court had to look at the world as it is and [b] not accept arguments that “typify what is to be expected in a society that is dominated by men in virtually all areas of human endeavour.”  And with that, the Court ruled in favor of Jane Bwanya, declaring that the exclusion is “unfair discrimination” and ordering the Parliament to fix the language of the two acts within 18 months. That decision was delivered December 31, 2021. Happy new year!

In March 2021, the Constitutional Court rendered a landmark decision in favor of five women who had been excluded from inheritance on the basis of gender. In December 2021, the Constitutional Court rendered a landmark decision in favor of survivors, the majority of whom are women, excluded from inheritance on the basis of formal rituals. Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Times Live)

Thina lomhlaba siwugezile! We have cleansed this earth! Sing freedom!

I am missing the times when the unions gave us hope. When workers’ struggles against capitalist exploitation, our people’s struggle for liberation from colonial rule and the struggle for a true people’s education were the same struggle. When the union truly “made us strong”. When the union and the liberation organisation and the youth or women’s movement were the same organisation not because they had the same name but because they understood the struggle to be what today feminists call “intersectional”. Where the oppression of workers, black people, provision of gutter education, were seen as tools of the same exploitative trade – racial capitalism, colonial domination, and of course patriarchy. Ah the Patriarchy! May we never stop mourning the ways in which our virtuous struggles for liberation gave black women the shortest end of the stick and then stabbed them on the back with it. We must erect eternal monuments for this betrayal’s remembrance!

For all her life, my mother was a worker. When she no longer worked in the masters’ and madams’ kitchens, she worked on other “factory” sites. She loved this song (not necessarily this version). I first heard it sung by her when I visited her back in those days when we lived in Ciskei and she in South Africa. Yes, lollest LOL, under De Klerk’s party’s rule she and I (geographically separated by the distance of a handful of football fields) were “citizens” of different “nation states”. Lollest LOL!

She was her own kind of activist in the kitchens and masters’s bedrooms and the streets. In her own kind of way, she knew and practiced the fine art of resistance finely.

Later, she and I would laugh through tears about how we recycled (perverted in her language) this song for feminist struggle, changing it to say “Kudala sisebenzel’a madoda, kudala sisebenzel’ipatriarchy, bafazi mas’manyane, elilizwe lelethu!”.

I come from a family of workers (workers of the land, chicory and pineapple pickers, mine-workers, “kitchen” workers, garden workers, child workers, healing workers…).

For that reason, this song will always have a deep meaning in my life. In it the spirit of my mother lives. So does the story of my family and the belief in the power of a united people’s resistance!

At this time, may our ancestors of light give us the grace for the ghosts of our dark history to leave us peacefully, allow us to bury them in peace. And for this, may our souls one day find the kind of peace that will help us truly rejoice while singing “Thina lomhlaba siwugezile”! Of course, that’s if there will be any mhlaba left with all these planet-wrecking choices we make over and over.

 

(By Siphokazi Mthathi)

Nobody is above (everyone is equal)

Nobody is above (everyone is equal)

Nobody is above the law
everyone is equal before

the much-lampooned man
has done whatever he can

Nobody is above the law
everyone is equal before

there are those ones
who give you the runs
(election-time they comes)

Nobody is above 
everyone is equal

an emperor-ex will serve
that which many more do deserve

Nobody is above the law
everyone is equal before

Miscreants and dictators plunder
tearing their countries asunder
(each according to their ability)

Orwell’s Animal Farm rings true 
but will it do for you 


SAFM radio’s afternoon show ends with a Ray Charles’ rendition of “Let it be”.

(By David Kapp)

(Image Credit: Sandile Goje, Making Democracy Work / Constitutional Court Art Collection)

In South Africa, women assert the Constitutional right to breathe fresh air is a State responsibility

Promise Mabilo

Section 24a of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa declares, “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.” Everyone means, or should mean, everyone. For decades, coal mining and coal-fired power plants have turned the Mpumalanga Highveld into the site of the most polluted air in the world. Two years ago, Greenpeace reported that the area was the world’s largest power plant emission hotspot. In 2007, the South African government created the Highveld Priority Area to respond to the deadly situation. Nothing changed. If anything, the air became more deadly. This year, women in Mpumalanga, most of them members of the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, decided enough was already way too much, and, with another environmental justice organization, groundWork, sued the South African government. The women declared they knew what was happening to their children, neighbors, community, and to themselves, and they said that they had pushed every other way conceivable and now, it was time for the South African government to abide by its Constitution. Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. Everyone means everyone. The case is known as the “Deadly Air” case. In May, the Pretoria High Court heard the case, and the decision could come out any day.

After the case was heard, Promise Mabilo, coordinator of Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action and one of the claimants, explained, “For me, this case is very important because people around the Highveld are really suffering. I have a son who is suffering from asthma and I feel the pain when I look at him. His childhood had limitations because he couldn’t play with other children, run around or carry heavy objects. I also noticed his school performance dropping because he wasn’t attending school regularly as he would be sick for one week then be okay the next …. The more I see the results of breathing in this polluted air and the people I live with in the community who are also sick and suffering from asthma, I feel abused and violated because I know what the cause is … We wish for the government departments to work together with other departments, such as the Department of Health. We do not just want compliance from the polluters because once we get sick, we even struggle to get proper healthcare because we don’t have money.”

Mbali Vosmang added, “I live with my  two children. Princess is seven, and Asemahle is three years old. When they were born, they were not sick but since living Emalahleni, we have become sick. It is very tough to sleep in hospitals due to COVID-19. The beds are full, and our children are put on oxygen tanks from the bench. The Deadly Air case is very important because I do not want others to continue to suffer the same issues as we do.”

When the government tried to explain that cleaning up an area takes time and that the claimants, majority women, were being emotional rather than rational, their attorney, Steven Budlender, responded, “The Constitutional Court has spoken with great force and passion about the need to … make a difference in ordinary people’s lives, and when you speak about 10 000  deaths of predominantly poor people in an area, that’s not emotional, it’s not irrational. It is the fact and the facts give rise to a constitutional violation.”

The facts give rise to a constitutional violation. The women of the Mpumalanga Highveld know the cause of the rampaging death in their communities. It is the air and it is the refusal of the State to care sufficiently. A state that can save its airline industry and its tourist industry is able to address the deadly air, produced by mines and power plants, in its rural areas. In Mpumalanga, in the northeast of South Africa, the women want the world to know, everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. The women want the world to know, everyone means everyone.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Daily Maverick / Daylin Paul / Life After Coal)

In South Africa, elderly rural women take a patriarchal King to court … and win!

Linah Nkosi

In South Africa in 1990, Sizani Ngubane co-founded the Rural Women’s Movement, a coalition of over 500 community-based organizations and a membership of over 50,000 indigenous women and girls. Until her untimely death at the end of last year, Sizani Ngubane, as Director of the Rural Women’s Movement, challenged traditional leaders’ misogyny, sexism, authoritarianism, patriarchy. In the last decades, she focused much of her work on KwaZulu-Natal, and especially on the Ingonyama Trust, a trust with only one trustee. At the time of Sizani Ngubane’s death, that trustee was King Goodwill Zwelithini. He alone controlled close to 30 percent of the land in KZN. Around five million people, about 50% of KZN, live on land the Ingonyama Trust controls. For years, the Ingonyama Trust ran roughshod over local landowners who actually had title, under traditional law, to the land. The Trust was especially vicious and dismissive of traditional women landowners. Last year, some of those women, along with the Rural Women’s Movement, took the Ingonyama Trust to court. This past Friday, the Court decided in the women’s favor. The court decided the Trust must repay the stolen money and land. This is a monumental victory for women, democracy, justice, and a demonstration that a person may die but the spirit lives on. Long live Sizani Ngubane!

In 2018, Sizani Ngubane described the Ingonyama Trust: “The Ingonyama Trust was established to secure the 2.8 million hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal for white people, who were not sure if the ANC led government would accommodate them after the colonial and apartheid regimes took 87% of the South African land from the indigenous communities …. The Ingonyama Trust’s actions concerning land have been terrible for the communities who reside on land designated as the Trust land … The Trust invites people to bring in their Permission to Occupy (PTO) certificates and other documentary proof of land rights in order to convert them into lease agreements, whose annual rentals escalate by 10%. A PTO Certificate is an apartheid-era land right that is upgradeable to ownership in terms of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act 112 of 1991. Not everyone has PTO Certificates because under the apartheid regime the issuing of these certificates was only for men. Nevertheless, anyone who has established long-term occupation of land is likely to have customary ownership, especially in instances where the inheritance of the land occurred over generations. The Trust’s standard lease agreement turns the indigenous and/or rural communities from owners into tenants of the Trust, binding them to pay rent that escalates at 10% a year. If one defaults on the rent, one stands to lose the land, including any buildings and improvements one, or one’s family, made on the land.”

Linah Nkosi, 64, lives on a pension. She has a plot of land that’s about seven acres. Linah Nkosi and her sister acquired that land years ago, through the local traditional council. The Ingonyama Trust decided all landholders needed leases. When Linah Nkosi came to sign hers, the Trust rejected her because she’s a woman. The Trust told her to get a man to cosign. Linah Nkosi protested … to no avail. She returned with her male partner, and he signed. Linah Nkosi continued to protest and then, with others, went to court.

Margaret Rawlings, 65, Thembekile Zondi, 62, Hluphekile Mabuyakhulu, 75,and other women tell similar stories. Margaret Rawlings has a title deed that goes back to 1926, and yet traditional leaders and the Ingonyama Trust seized parts of her property, and when she protested, guns went off. Thembekile Zondi was married to a local traditional leader. When he died, a new leader was installed, and he promptly evicted Thembekile Zondi and her daughters from the house that Zondi and her husband had built. To this day, Zondi and her daughters “feel like refugees who have been forced to flee from their own home and watch the usurpers enjoying the fruits of our hard work.” At a community meeting, Hluphekile Mabuyakhulu was told to sign the lease or lose her land and become homeless. 

The women who were badgered, dismissed, threatened, injured, stolen from said “NO”. They said the Constitution, justice, decency, the rule of law, and women matter. On Friday, the Court agreed. The Legal Resources Centre, who represented the women in the case commented: “For the seven individuals, this fight is personal. The group comprises of single mothers, factory workers, pensioners, farmers and fathers trying to provide for their families. For many, their ascendents worked the land on which they are now being forced to pay rent. They have – along with the other 5.2 million residents of the Ingonyama Trust land – built their homes and their lives on this land. The applicants represent these 5.2 million South Africans and the threat that this matter poses to their security of tenure on this land.”

This fight is personal, for the seven individuals who took the Ingonyama Trust to court, as it is for everyone everywhere. Around the world, people face eviction from their homes, homes which they built, under all sorts of pretenses. Pandemic billionaires rake in untold wealth and avoid paying taxes, while the majority of the world population suffers economic crisis. Historically racist, sexist and economically discriminatory housing policies continue to build today’s Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, as well as South Africa. Industrial capital was founded on pushing people off their land and then criminalizing them. Post-industrial capital continues to rely on the disenfranchisement and mass eviction of rural populations, especially women. No one, no one man, no one group of men, should control 30 percent of anything, but they continue to do so. That must come to an end. Friday’s judgement was a personal and a global victory. Long live Sizani Ngubane!

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: New Frame)

You move too slow

You move too slow

You move too slow
I get to hear
from a greyhead
behind me

not in the pecking order
not at the feeding trough
but in a shopping queue

You move too slow
clipping my heels
as she veers 
to the right

to another queue
where the grass is greener
and there is more
on offer

You move too slow
the over 60s are urged 
(on evening etv news)
not to rush to centres 
for their vaccine shots

so I am just
practising my slowness
my lack of speed
or slothfulness even

amused once was I
to hear two queueing locals
pondering which service
was the more slothful
(we won’t say which)

You move too slow
could be said to be

The state we are in

(By David Kapp)

(Photo Credit: Health-e News / NW Health Department)

There isn’t a school

There isn’t a school

There isn’t a school
for protesting 

but there is
for police
and policing

There isn’t a school
for protesting or
for protesters

to learn the trade
to learn the skills

but there is
for police
and policing

There isn’t a school
Though we have 
plenty of schools

(who is schooled
who is educated)

There isn’t a school

When might there be

An afternoon SAFM radio presenter ponders the killing of a passer-by “caught in the cross-fire” by the country’s police in the Wits student protests, 11 March 2021, in South Africa’s Human Rights Month.

By David Kapp

(Photo Credit: News24 / AFP / Emmanuel Croset)

Landmark case: In South Africa, five sisters said NO! to the exclusion of women … and won!

Constitutional Court

This is the story of Trudene Forword, Annelie Jordaan, Elna Slabber, Kalene Roux and Surina Serfontein, five women who refused to be denied their birthright, and In so doing affirmed, once again, that justice means justice for everyone. The story begins in 1902, in Oudtshoorn, in the Klein Karoo, in the Western Cape. Oudtshoorn is known for ostrich farms. Maybe now it will also be known as yet another cradle of democracy and justice for all. On November 28, 1902, Karel Johannes Cornelius de Jager and his wife, Catherine Dorothea de Jager formally signed their will, leaving some of their farms to their children, with one stipulation. The farms would pass from their children only to male generations until the third generation. But what if, at some point, the only direct descendants are women? Last month, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled on that question. 

In 1957, brothers Kalvyn, Cornelius and John de Jager inherited the property. John de Jager never had sons, and so when he died, his property was split between his two remaining brothers, Kalvyn and Cornelius. When Cornelius died, his sons – Albertus, Frederick, and Arnoldus – inherited his half share in the farms. In 2015, Kalvyn de Jager died. He had no sons, and he had five daughters: Trudene Forword, Annelie Jordaan, Elna Slabber, Kalene Roux and Surina Serfontein. Their male cousins claimed the property, noting that while the situation may smack of “unfair discrimination”, the law was the law, and a will was a will. The sisters didn’t buy that argument and went to court. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals decided in favor of the male cousins. The sisters persisted and went to the Constitutional Court, the court of last resort, in this instance. Last month, the Constitutional Court decided in the sisters’ favor.

Acting Justice Margaret Victor explained, “The provisions of the preamble to the Equality Act make its nature and intended purpose clear. The consolidation of democracy requires the eradication of inequalities, especially those that are systemic in nature and which were generated in South Africa’s history by colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy. Inheritance laws sustain and legitimise the unequal distribution of wealth in societies thus enabling a handful of powerful families to remain economically privileged while the rest remain systematically deprived. In my view, this system entrenches inherited wealth along the male line. In applying this critique to the facts in this case our common law principle of freedom of testation is continuing to entrench a skewed gender bias in favour of men.”

The consolidation of democracy requires the eradication of inequalities, especially those that are systemic in nature and which were generated in history by colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy. What else is there to say?

By Dan Moshenberg

(Photo Credit: GroundUp / Ashraf Hendricks)