On 20 August, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria will hear the latest instalment of a legal battle for the kingship of AmaMpondo. The present-day dispute has been before South African courts since 2011 – although its genesis lies further back in history.
In 2010 the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims decided that Zanozuko Sigcau should be the King of AmaMpondo, leading to his appointment by the President. Applicants now want the Pretoria High Court to review and set aside the Commission’s decision as well as the appointment made by the President.
The Constitutional Court has already produced two judgments in relation to this dispute. The first judgment, in 2013, declared the President’s Government Gazette notice appointing Zanozuko Sigcau invalid and set it aside. The second judgment, in 2018, rejected an argument that, after receiving the Commission’s findings, the President was first required to follow a process of consulting with the royal family about the candidate they had identified for the kingship. The Court found that the President’s duty was limited to issuing a Gazette notice appointing the candidate identified by the Commission.
An expert affidavit by LARC’s Chief Researcher, Dr Aninka Claassens, has been submitted as part of the legal case that the applicants will now put before the Pretoria High Court. Dr Claassens explains the interpretation and application of customary law in relation to traditional leadership disputes and rejects an approach focused solely on genealogy.
The Amadiba Crisis Committee, a local AmaMpondo activist group, released a statement ahead of the hearing in support of the applicants’ case.
The statement reads:
“On this Tuesday 20 August, the Pretoria High Court is going to hear an appeal of Royal House of Qaukeni of the appointment of Zanozuko Sigcau as the King of AmaMpondo in the Eastern part of Pondoland, Eastern Cape. Against him stands the late King of AmaMpondo, Mpondombini and Mpondombini’s successors, Queen Lombekiso Sigcau and their daugther Crown Princess Wezizwe Sigcau.
“The legal argument against the Zuma government appointing Zanozuko as our King is clear. The court papers resonate with the feelings in the Amadiba community. We will quote from them.
“The Commission on Traditional Leadership and Claims simply said that back in the 1930s ‘Nelson should have been the King, therefore Zwidumile should have been the King and therefore Zanozuko must be the King’.
“But AmaMpondo customary law is not only about who it is that is born by whom, especially not if there is a conflict among royalties. Who should be the King or the Chief among the AmaMpondo is ‘ultimately based in the community’s decision, which decision has regard to the fitness of the candidate(s)’.
“The Commission ‘never considered whether AmaMpondo ever supported the appointment of Zanozuko, or even if he was a fit person to govern’. The Commission ‘ignored the issue of community support and acceptability which lies at the heart of the succession to traditional leadership and it substituted its own judgment for that of AmaMpondo’. ‘The only evidence (…) is that there was broad support for Mpondombini’. ‘At the time of the Commission’s hearings, Mpondombini introduced uncontested evidence that 25 senior traditional leaders supported him and only three supported Zanozuko. The Commission ignored this’.
“The situation is the same today, and Zanozuko has time and again proved that he is not fit to be King of AmaMpondo. The reason the government supports him is that he is a Business King.”
The Amadiba Crisis Committee concluded that:
“As ACC, we support a person on the [throne] that respects the communities, that respect the people. If the Court again fails to understand AmaMpondo customary law, our kingship conflict will continue. It will tell us that the state doesn’t respect the Constitution of South Africa, because if the state undermines the customary law, it undermines the Constitution of South Africa.
“This matter must be laid to rest. There can be no support for a King that sign business deals to sell our land without consent of AmaMpondo.
“Pondoland is not for sale!”
Read the Constitutional Court’s previous judgments relating to this matter here: