Chiefs win last-gasp election delay

The Ingonyama Trust and several chiefs were granted an order in the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday that postponed the Council election, which was due to be held on Saturday.

The Trust and the chiefs had brought the application against the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) asking that pending the resolution of disputes that have been declared, Cogta and the IEC be interdicted from proceeding with the elections and election procedures.

Cogta had opposed the application, saying it was a last-minute attempt to derail the elections that would mean a wastage of public funds and a further cynical last-minute attempt to disrupt long overdue elections by a few disgruntled individuals for purely political reasons.

The judge, however, granted an order that postponed the election for the Trust — Inkosi Phikubuxoki Roy Bele of the Qiko Tribal Authority, Inkosi Hlanganani Cameron Biyela of the Mthuli Tribal Authority area and chairperson of the uMgungundlovu Local House, and Inkosi Themba Winston Mavundla of the Mthimude Tribal Authority (areas where elections were to be held).

The application for the other inkhosi was adjourned indefinitely as it did not affect them as elections were not going to be held in their areas.

The matter came to court as the applicants believed that little or no input from the amakhosi was taken into consideration by Cogta in scheduling the elections for the Council.

“In fact a substantial proportion of the amakhosi have noted their objection to the proposed elections which were to be held on February 29,” said the Trust’s legal officer Busisiwe Mkhize in her affidavit.

She said the proposed elections contravened legislation that provided that an inkosi (chief) shall initiate elections for his area by calling an imbizo and that Cogta had no power or authority to initiate or organise elections without the chief’s involvement.

Mkhize said Cogta’s conduct in scheduling the elections contravened customary law.

“This contravenes customary law in terms of which an inkhosi is obliged to govern with due respect for the authority of the Isilo, his majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini. It would be offensive, in terms of customary law, for elections, such as those proposed in the Provincial Notice, to be conducted without his majesty’s approval and, indeed, against his will,” said Mkhize.

Thando Tubane, Cogta head of department said there was no need for the interdict. He said they had already stated that if a single inkhosi did not call an Imbizo then the selection process could not take place in his community. He said therefore no election would take place in any traditional community where the inkhosi had refused or was unable to select Traditional Council members or call the Imbizo.

“I am, however, aware that many inkosi have co-operated with the IEC as provided for in the election timetable and are ready to proceed with the elections. Those who wish to proceed with the elections, should be permitted to do so,” said Tubane. He added the Trust’s and other applicants’ complaints about the validity of the election process could then be ventilated in a review or Constitutional legality application.

This article first appeared in The Witness on 25 February 2020.

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