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Press Release: Amahlathi cel­e­brate court win that dis­es­tab­lishes tra­di­tional lead­er­ship

For Imme­di­ate Release: 27 June 2017


Today, 27 June 2017, in the Bhisho High Court in a case that is a first of its kind, the court granted an order to dis­es­tab­lish a senior tra­di­tional lead­er­ship over res­i­dents of Amahlathi. The Court set aside a deci­sion of the Com­mis­sion on Tra­di­tional Lead­er­ship Dis­putes and Claims, and of the Pre­mier, that recog­nised the legit­i­macy of a chief over the Amahlathi, and dis­es­tab­lished the senior tra­di­tional lead­er­ship.


The case was brought by the Amahlathi Cri­sis Com­mit­tee, rep­re­sent­ing eight vil­lages near King Williams Town. The Com­mit­tee was rep­re­sented by the Legal Resources Cen­tre.


The Com­mit­tee asked that the court set aside this deci­sion, argu­ing that the cus­tom of the Amahlathi peo­ple was not to have a chief. Instead, they gov­erned them­selves through a sys­tem of elected chair­per­sons and have con­tin­ued to prac­tice this cus­tom­ary law until today.


Mr Maqoma (allegedly not his real name) was installed as chief in the area in 1982, after Pres­i­dent Sebe of the then Ciskei cre­ated a chief­tain­ship over the area. It was the first time res­i­dents encoun­tered a chief. The com­mu­ni­ties refused to recog­nise him and the chief­taincy all but dis­ap­peared. 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 com­mu­ni­ties approached sev­eral gov­ern­ment depart­ments to chal­lenge his author­ity before being advised to lodge a com­plaint with the Com­mis­sion. The Com­mis­sion ruled against them.


They approached the Legal Resources Cen­tre to chal­lenge this find­ing. The Pre­mier and the Com­mis­sion ini­tially opposed the appli­ca­tion but later with­drew their oppo­si­tion.


When hand­ing down his deci­sion to dis­es­tab­lish the tra­di­tional lead­er­ship, the judge noted his con­cern that com­mu­ni­ties have to go through such a pro­longed process to have their cus­toms recog­nised and com­mended the Amahlathi com­mu­ni­ties for not giv­ing up. Dur­ing the case, it was also noted that many mat­ters relat­ing to deci­sions made by the Com­mis­sion have come before the court.







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