Xhosa community asks court to confirm they have no chief

The Amahlathi Cri­sis Com­mit­tee‚ rep­re­sent­ing eight vil­lages near King William’s Town‚ will ask the Bhisho High Court on Tuesday to set aside the deci­sion of the Com­mis­sion on Tra­di­tional Lead­er­ship Dis­putes and Claims‚ and of the Pre­mier‚ that recog­nises the legit­i­macy of a chief.

The Amahlathi Cri­sis Com­mit­tee‚ which is objecting to a chieftainship they say was first imposed them in 1982‚ is rep­re­sented by the Legal Resources Cen­tre.

Sketching the background‚ the LRC said the peo­ple of Amahlathi arrived in the area that they occupy today in the 1850s.

“They had no chief‚ but gov­erned them­selves through a sys­tem of elected chair­per­sons and have con­tin­ued to prac­tice this cus­tom­ary law until today. How­ever‚ in 1982‚ Pres­i­dent (Lennox) Sebe of the then Ciskei cre­ated a chief­tain­ship over the area and installed Mr (Lent) Maqoma . . . as chief.

“The com­mu­nity ignored this new devel­op­ment as far as they could at the time‚ so much so that the posi­tion dis­ap­peared around 2000. How­ever‚ in 2005‚ with the pro­mul­ga­tion of the East­ern Cape Tra­di­tional Lead­er­ship and Gov­er­nance Act of 2005‚” the LRC said‚ the Maqoma chief­taincy reasserted its author­ity over the area.

The Amahlathi peo­ple took their griev­ance about the chieftainship to sev­eral gov­ern­ment depart­ments before being advised to lodge a com­plaint with the Com­mis­sion. The Com­mis­sion‚ the Amahlathi peo­ple say‚ mis­con­strued their man­date. Instead of inves­ti­gat­ing whether the cus­tom­ary law of the com­mu­ni­ties of Amahlathi pro­vides for a chief‚ they focused on the his­tory of the land in ques­tion and insisted that an antecedent of Maqoma had author­ity over the area before the Amahlathi peo­ple arrived there.

The com­mu­nity is ask­ing the Bhisho High Court to set aside the deci­sion to con­firm the Maqoma chief­taincy‚ and to order that the area can­not be placed under the author­ity of a chief as long as it is incon­sis­tent with the cus­tom­ary law of the peo­ple who live there.

The office of Pre­mier Phumulo Masualle and the Com­mis­sion ini­tially opposed the appli­ca­tion‚ but have since with­drawn their oppo­si­tion and stated they will abide by the court’s deci­sion‚ the LRC said.


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