Court reserves judgement in Matatiele case

Judgement in the cross-boundary municipality case involving residents of Matatiele—a town bordering the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal—was reserved in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

The court was asked to consider an application that two amendment acts under which the Matatiele municipality was transferred from KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape were unconstitutional.

The laws involved are the Constitution Thirteenth Amendment Act 2007 and the Cross Boundary Municipalities Laws Repeal and Related Matters Amendment Act 2007 (Cross-Boundary Amendment Act).

The Matatiele residents argue that they were not adequately consulted by the government, nor did they adequately participate in the process when the geographical boundaries of the provinces were determined.

The residents say the government ignored the wishes of the communities to remain in KwaZulu-Natal.

The judgement was reserved after nearly four hours of argument, with lawyers representing residents arguing that the government had acted irrationally and that residents were not properly consulted.

“The court should find that the decision taken was not rational because it was taken before the [public] hearings,” said advocate Glen Goddard.

Challenging the constitutionality of the Thirteenth Amendment Act 2007 and the Cross-Boundary Amendment Act, Goddard said residents he represented were not adequately consulted.

“Parliament was not rational on passing the Act.”

By the time a public participation processes took place, a decision had already been taken.

“Residents were not properly consulted,” he said.

Goddard also contended that lawmakers failed to offer a legitimate reason justifying their relocation.

But government lawyers disputed this, saying the amendment acts were passed in accordance with the Constitution and that residents were consulted.

“In papers before this court, it’s clear that there was proper consultation. They [government] invited the public to participate ... special notices and broadcasts were issued to alert people in that area,” said advocate Jan Heunis.

Another lawyer arguing on behalf of the state, advocate Vincent Maleka SC, said it would have been unreasonable to consult residents separately.

“It couldn’t have been possible to consult those affected separately because they were all affected by cross-border municipality issues, so we submit that the applicant’s argument is unfounded,” said Maleka.

During proceedings, two of the newly appointed Constitutional judges—Sisi Khampepe and Mogoeng Thomas Reetsang Mogoeng—never uttered a word, except when they took their oaths earlier in the day.

But their colleague, Johan Froneman, actively participated by constantly asking the lawyers questions.—Sapa

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