The motives for the orchestrated protest action by thousands of Macambini residents on 4 December, which saw them blockading the main roads immediately north of the uThukela river, must be questioned. According to the owner-in-law of the land, the Ingonyama Trust, it cannot be leased or alienated without the formal consent of the Traditional Council concerned. Why then is the Traditional Council, headed by Inkosi Khayalihle Mathaba, who rules the area with an iron fist, protesting instead of simply declining the Dubai offer?
At the same time, the provincial government has important questions to answer, especially about who stands to benefit from the Dubai investment – and whether the provincial government’s failure to take action against a man who has broken the law with impunity has anything to do with alleged shared business interests with anyone associated in any way with government.
The proposed development in context
The Macambini area has suffered high levels of political violence, intimidation and crime for almost twenty years. In the 1990s countless people were killed, or driven from the area, with the TRC making a finding of gross human rights violations against traditional leader Mathaba.
While violence raged in Macambini, Mathaba directed people to settle, illegally, on adjoining Mangete farms owned by Dunn descendants, with the farmers enduring a campaign of terror – the burning of sugar cane, and innumerable attacks. Before an Interdict against Mathaba and others was to be finalised in 1996 he lodged a land claim on behalf of people who had been moved from Mangete in the 1970s to the Wangu area, which was not then part of Macambini. This claim was settled, albeit irregularly, in 2002, but up until the present time the illegal occupants have not been given the land which was purchased for them – including seven farms in Mangete which, like Wangu, remains under the control of non-claimant Mathaba. The Interdict, ordering the occupants off the land, was finalised in 2004. The First Respondent, Mathaba, and the illegal occupants are in flagrant disobedience of Order, placing them all in contempt of court.
A climate of extreme political repression exists in Macambini, with the persecution of ANC activists having continued up until the present time. In 2004 Walter Buthelezi obtained a High Court Interdict against Mathaba, who threatened him with death for placing ANC posters. Prominent activist and local government candidate Mrs Sibongile Zungu was threatened by Mathaba in 2005, prior to various attempts to kill her, and a number of other ANC activists have been killed in recent years. Why has the ANC as a political party not taken steps to prevent attacks on people who risk their lives for it, and why has it, as government in the province, failed to take action against Mathaba despite his having broken the law?
A deafening silence
Following gross intimidation of voters and election officials in Macambini during the 2006 local government elections, affidavits were made with a view to disputing the election results. The regional structures of the ANC refused to take the matter further, despite its presumably having been in its interest to do so.
In May 2006 a letter was addressed to MEC for Local Government, Housing and Traditional Affairs, Mr Mike Mabuyakhulu, detailing Mathaba’s contravention of the legislation governing traditional leadership and the fact that he was in contempt of court. The MEC was requested to take appropriate action. Despite follow up letters, and an appeal to the relevant national minister, no response was received.
When threats to Mrs Zungu and criminal attacks on Mangete farmers continued, a letter was addressed to ANC leader Ndebele in December 2006, referring to matters raised with Mabuyakhulu, and the MEC’s non-response. Information was provided about paramilitary training in the area, and its potential for destabilisation. Reference was made to allegations of proposed business ventures in the area involving Mathaba and at least one person close to the provincial government, raising the issue of possible corruption. The premier was warned that if no action was taken more blood was sure to be spilled. There was no response.
On 26 February 2007 well armed men attacked the Zungu home, shooting and throwing incendiary devices. The large house was razed, and two grandchildren were injured by shrapnel. Miraculously, no one was killed, but the family was left with only the nightclothes they were wearing. They relocated to a room in nearby Mandeni, but the threats continued – apparently because family members recognised attackers, including Mbongwa Maphumulo. Maphumulo is an induna of the chief, and a ward councillor. He was recently found guilty of possession of three unlicensed firearms and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Mrs Zungu had campaigned tirelessly for the ANC despite being under threat, but appeals to help her made to the leadership – including the Women’s League and NEC – fell on deaf ears.
In July 2007 a letter was faxed, and sent registered mail, to the Speaker of the Legislature, Mr Willies Mchunu, drawing attention to the unlawful conduct of Mathaba, an MPL, and requesting an enquiry. The registered letter was never collected from the post office and was returned to sender. No response was ever received to the fax.
When, in April 2008, the rumours about the Dubai investment were confirmed, an open letter to the premier, reiterating previous concerns, and asking a number of questions – including about local financial stakeholders – elicited a prompt response from his office. A meeting with Director General Mbanjwa followed. Mbanjwa provided various undertakings, including that that no Macambini resident would be dispossessed of land and that the illegal occupants on Mangete farms would be given land due to them in terms of the claim settlement. Despite an assurance of regular progress reports, and a follow up letter, nothing further was ever heard from the office of the premier.
Answers please Premier Ndebele
There is a perception that the government of this province has continued to turn a blind eye to gross human rights violations and unlawful activities in Macambini and Mangete because of vested financial interests on the part of person/s associated with it. Whatever the truth, its handling of the Dubai-investment matter has provided a pretext for increased destabilisation in an area which is a haven for criminals, and seems awash with guns. Premier Ndebele owes the public a full explanation:
- Is it true that Mathaba travelled to Dubai with a person or persons from his office when talks were held with investors
- Is it true that Mathaba was given a large sum of money and, if so, where did this money come from?
- Who exactly are the local stakeholders in the proposed R44 billion development and are any persons currently serving in government among them?
TRC/Court records cited
- Findings against Mathaba in TRC Report Volume 3
- Water Buthelezi Durban and Coast High Court Interdict 3565/2004
- Mangete land invasion details in Durban and Coast High Court cases 6212/03 and 1931/96 (Interdict)