Poor communities living in villages around the Modjadji area in Limpopo are at odds with the Modjadji Royal Council following fears that the council is about to introduce by-laws prohibiting people from cutting down trees or collecting river sand.
The by-laws were made public last year by the royal council - during a quarterly general assembly held at Khehlakoni village, the headquarters of the Modjadji royal family.
The laws also state that liquor outlets and shebeen owners who kept their businesses open beyond stipulated times would face heavy fines.
Headmen from 128 villages have been instructed to warn their subjects to stop the abuse of the area's resources.
Local villagers were clearly angry with their headmen when they recently discussed the new by-laws with them.
The most affected people are those living in rural areas where there is no electricity: some of them earn a living by selling river sand and fire-wood to feed their families.
The council has also come up with fines that will be imposed on anyone who disobeys the new by-laws.
Sowetan is in possession of a document outlining the by-laws and the amount of fines set by the royal council.
According to one headman, who declined to be named, the by-laws also put them under pressure because they also would be fined if they failed to enforce them.
Villagers living in those areas without electricity are also worried that because of the ban on fire-wood, they would not be able to prepare hot meals.