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Press Release: Amahlathi Cri­sis Com­mit­tee asks court to con­firm they have no chief


For Imme­di­ate Release: 26 June 2017


On Tues­day, 27 June 2017, the Amahlathi Cri­sis Com­mit­tee, rep­re­sent­ing eight vil­lages near King Williams Town, will ask the Bhisho High Court 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 who had been imposed upon them, for the first time in 1982, by the vio­lent Ciskei regime.


The Amahlathi Cri­sis Com­mit­tee is rep­re­sented by the Legal Resources Cen­tre.


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 Sebe of the then Ciskei cre­ated a chief­tain­ship over the area and installed Mr Maqoma (allegedly not his real name) 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, Mr Maqoma was embold­ened to reassert his author­ity over the area and even attempted to take over the pend­ing resti­tu­tion claims that indi­vid­ual Amahlathi vil­lages had lodged in 1998.


The Amahlathi peo­ple took their griev­ances about this unlaw­ful impo­si­tion to sev­eral gov­ern­ment depart­ments before being advised to lodge a com­plaint with the Com­mis­sion. The Com­mis­sion, the Amahlathi peo­ple say, mis­con­strued their man­date in adju­di­cat­ing the mat­ter. 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.


Pro­fes­sor Jeff Peires has sub­mit­ted an expert report to the Bhisho High Court indi­cat­ing that, in any event, the Com­mis­sion relied on mis­in­for­ma­tion in assess­ing the his­tory of the land.


The com­mu­nity is ask­ing the Court to set aside the deci­sion to con­firm Mr Maqoma’s 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.


Whilst the Pre­mier and the Com­mis­sion ini­tially opposed the appli­ca­tion, they have with­drawn their oppo­si­tion and will abide by the Court’s deci­sion.







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