Matatiele closer to E Cape incorporation

The district of Matatiele moved a step closer to being permanently incorporated into the Eastern Cape after the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday voted by a narrow margin in favour of the controversial Constitution 13th Amendment Bill.

Heated debate between opposition parties and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) preceded the vote on the Bill, as well as a vote on a Democratic Alliance-sponsored amendment proposing that the Maluti and Matatiele districts be incorporated into KwaZulu-Natal.

The Bill was opposed by all the opposition parties—the Democratic Alliance (DA), the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Minority Front (MF) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The ANC garnered 40 votes to the combined opposition’s 36 votes. Three members of the legislature were absent and a simple majority meant that the speaker Willies Mchunu did not have to cast a deciding vote.

The same ANC majority also opposed the amendment submitted by the DA’s KwaZulu-Natal caucus leader, Roger Burrows.

When the results were announced in the legislature, shouts of “sell-out!” were heard from opposition members.

The Bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for final approval.

Approval of the Bill followed heated debate earlier in the morning as well as two well-attended public hearings in Matatiele on Tuesday and last Thursday.

The IFP’s George Mari told the legislature that 5 685 signatures against Matatiele’s incorporation had been received by the KwaZulu-Natal portfolio committee for local government.

“It is a day that the ANC betrayed its own supporters. What type of government will not listen to its people?” he asked.

Opposition party speakers repeatedly stated that the majority of the Matatiele district’s residents were against incorporation into the Eastern Cape and most of those in the Maluti district were in favour of being a part of KwaZulu-Natal.

Jo-Ann Downs, ACDP deputy president, said: “The people have spoken.
We should listen to them.

“Let’s not have a whole redraft of what happened at Khutsong. Let’s embrace the people of Matatiele,” she said.

She warned that if public consultations yielded no change it was “going to mess up public participation” and people would in future fail to attend such government initiatives.

‘Just and fair’

The ANC’s Mzwakhe Sithebe said that the majority of public submissions at the public hearings were “emotive”, but that “whilst emotions are understandable, we [the legislature] need to determine what is just and fair”.

He also said that Matatiele was still a thriving town despite already being a part of the Eastern Cape.

Matatiele was incorporated into the Eastern Cape on February 28 last year, hours before voting started in the local government election of 2006. Similarly, the Umzimkulu region was incorporated into KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape.

Sithebe said complaints received about prospective poor service delivery from the Eastern Cape were not provincial service-delivery issues, but “national competencies”.

Chairperson of the local government committee, the ANC’s Mbuso Khubeka, accused Downs of being ignorant and said opposition parties were taking advantage of “sheer political opportunism”.

The ANC’s Lizzy Shabalala said Matatiele’s inclusion in KwaZulu-Natal was a legacy from the apartheid era that needed to be redressed.

Burrows said: “I defy anyone who was at the public hearings to deny the overwhelming weight of oral and written and petitioned evidence was overwhelmingly in favour of Matatiele-Maluti being a part of KwaZulu-Natal.

“They [Matatiele-Maluti residents] are willing to be polled, to vote to see where the majority support lies. But the ANC will never agree to that.”

More than 3 000 people packed the local soccer stadium in Matatiele as the second day of public hearings on Tuesday.

Hearings were held in Pietermaritzburg, Umzimkulu and Matatiele last week.

However, the hall in Matatiele at which the hearings were held was too small and all those who wanted to speak did not have an opportunity to do so.

A decision was then taken to stage a second day of hearings at the Matatiele soccer stadium this past Tuesday.

On August 18 last year, Constitutional Court Judge Sandile Ngcobo said in his judgement that the part of the Twelfth Amendment Act that altered the boundaries of KwaZulu Natal was invalid because it was not adopted in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

Although the Eastern Cape held public hearings on the matter of Matatiele being incorporated into the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal did not.

There was therefore not sufficient public participation in the legislative process, which was inconsistent with the Constitution.

Ngcobo suspended the order of invalidity for 18 months for Parliament to adopt a new amendment to the Constitution if it wished to.—Sapa

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