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Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD)

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a loose association of civil society organisations, including community-based groupings and non-governmental organisations. ARD assists rural people to defend their land and resource rights, and to assert their constitutional rights as citizens of democratic South Africa.

The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) is a dynamic and flexible grouping of civil society organisations which have joined together to contest policy and legislation that undermines the rights of rural citizens living in the former Bantustans and which threatens to dispossess them of rights in land.

Our symbol is the traditional umtshayelo wesandle – the hand broom found in every rural household. The broom symbolises the power of organisation – the many bristles representing individuals, communities and organisations who are bound together by a common purpose to sweep away the problems, discriminatory laws and abuses of power and custom which impact on rural people’s lives.

Discriminatory laws, policies and practices distort customary law, undermine security of tenure and rights in land while entrenching the powers of traditional authorities. The ARD has challenged these undemocratic practices and discriminatory laws through campaigns on the ground and through test cases brought before the courts.

The ARD has mobilised for the review of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act which prevents rural people from addressing the complex legacies of the apartheid Bantustans.

The Alliance successfully contested the implementation of the Communal Land Rights Act (CLRA) which was struck down by the Constitutional Court together with its legal advisors.

The ARD campaigned tirelessly against the Traditional Courts Bill. This resulted  in as vote  against the government-sponsored draft law in parliament’s National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The ARD succeeded in amplifying the voices of rural women who have been at the forefront of opposition to the TCB. The ARD argued that the Bill would create a separate legal system for the 18 million people living in the former Bantustans and make them subjects of traditional leaders with second class rights in the South African democracy. The ARD is renewing its oversight and activism following the reintroduction of a revised TCB in 2017.

The ARD has consistently argued that democratic South Africa  has failed to meet key constitutional obligations to ensure security of land tenure for residents of the former bantustans.

The ARD is currently organising across the country to highlight the implications of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill which seeks to  entrench apartheid geographies with its proposals to establish traditional councils based on the old  “tribal authorities” of the Bantustans which were established in terms of the 1951 Bantu Authorities Act.

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