A decision by the Nhlapo Commission to demote the amaRharhabe kingship was yesterday reviewed and set aside by the North Gauteng High Court.
The outcome was widely lauded as a move that will restore the dignity of the kingdom. Judge Vuyelwa Vivian Tlhapi ruled yesterday: “The decision of the [Nhlapo Commission] in which it rejected [King Maxhoba Sandile’s] claim and that of the amaRharhabe people in respect of the recognition of the independence of amaRharhabe paramountcy is reviewed and set aside.”
President Jacob Zuma’s July 2010 decision on the demotion of the amaRharhabe was also set aside by the court.
Tlhapi ordered the commission, Zuma and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to pay the costs of the application.
The amaRharhabe were represented by Smith Tabata Inc with Gilbert Marcus, SC.
AmaRharhabe Queen Noloyiso Sandile yesterday called an urgent media briefing at her Mngqesha great place near King William’s Town to make the announcement after the judgment was delivered at 9.30am. Speaking on her behalf, Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe said the ruling was a historic and exciting event, and it confirmed that “the amaRharhabe had been an independent sovereign kingship since the 18th century”.
Burns-Ncamashe said they had maintained all along that the Nhlapho Commission had erred in its finding.
The support from amaXhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu in the matter had been appreciated, he added.
“Indeed we want to reach out our gratitude to King Sigcawu … we are indebted to all the leaders of the amaRharhabe and their communities for their commitment to the confirmation of the independence of amaRharhabe and kingship,” he said.
A report-back meeting is expected to be called next week by the kingdom.
The amaRharhabe are the right-hand house of King Phalo of the amaXhosa, with the great house being the amaGcaleka.
In 2008 the Nhlapo Commission determined that the amaRharhabe, led then by the now late King Maxhoba Sandile; the abaThembu BaseRhoda [Western Thembuland] led by the late King Lwandile Matanzima; and the amaMpondo aseNyandeni [Western Mpondoland] led by King Ndamase Ndamase, were not legitimate kingships.
After the deaths of the kings, the territories were to be headed by newly established traditional leadership formed to accommodate paramount chiefs in the country who were found not to have legitimate kingships. All three were deemed kings until they died.
The commission also determined that amaMpondo aseQaukeni [Eastern Mpondoland] king Mpondombini Sigcau was not entitled to the kingship and Zanozuko Sigcau should instead take the throne as the king of the amaMpondo as a whole.
All three kingdoms and Sigcau appealed to the high court to have the decision to demote them set aside.
Despite their kings dying in the interim, the royal status of the kingdoms remains pending finalisation of their court appeals.
This article was first published in Daily Dispatch on 19 October 2016