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The office of Premier Phumulo Masualle and the Commission initially opposed the application‚ but have since withdrawn their opposition and stated they will abide by the court’s decision‚ the LRC said.