Izinduna from Babanango in northern KwaZulu-Natal, whose salaries were frozen by the Zululand House of Traditional Leaders last year, have gone to court to have their payments reinstated.
The salaries of the nine izinduna from the Nobamba tribal authority were suspended because of a boundary dispute in which izinduna from the uSuthu tribal authority have claimed authority over their area. The House has stated they are part of a broader group of izinduna affected by boundary disputes following the decisions of a provincial government audit.
The House, the provincial co-operative governance and traditional affairs department and Premier Willies Mchunu are opposing the application.
Phiwokuhle Guma, the director of the House, said the provincial government had declared a dispute with the presidency over the decision to pay izinduna, taken by former president Jacob Zuma in 2015. At present, the province pays about R300-million a year to izinduna, who earn about R8 000 a month to act as the local-level representatives of the chiefs.
Guma said the province had audited 3 213 izinduna and found there were 97 disputes and nine sub-clans who were outside of their own jurisdiction.
But the nine say in court papers that they are being treated unlawfully in order to favour izinduna appointed by King Goodwill Zwelithini’s representative (iso leSilo) from the uSuthu tribal authority, MM Mbuyisa. The izinduna led by Mbuyisa claim that Nobamba falls under their authority.
The nine want the high court in Pietermaritzburg to order the House, the co-operative governance and traditional affairs ministry and the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers to recognise their legitimacy and reinstate their salaries. They have also asked for back pay.
In papers before the court, Mfanusekhaya Khumalo, who represents the Mahlathini and Mehlomane areas, said they were informed in July that their salaries had been suspended. “All of us were never afforded an opportunity to make submissions before the decision to terminate our salaries was taken and implemented,” he said.
The reasons given later to justify the decision were not “adequate reasons for the termination of our salaries” and made it “patently clear that the decision is procedurally and structurally defective and indeed irregular if not simply incompetent”.
Khumalo said they were told the decision had been taken because of a shared boundary with uSuthu, which claimed authority, and that two izinduna could not be paid for the same area.
Khumalo said Mbuyisa had “appropriated himself the title” in a bid to stay in power in the area after having served as chairperson of the traditional council until 2012.
“The alleged izinduna that are allegedly serving in our respective izigodi are actually former traditional councillors whose term of office expired in 2012 as well. This is just a corrupt way of securing financial security of former councillors,” Khumalo said.
He said Mubyisa’s izinduna were still receiving salaries. “This is a blatant discrimination,” he said.
He also claimed that the payment of salaries to the rival izinduna was illegal and fraudulent because they were not legally appointed.
In his answering affidavit, Guma said all izinduna in the province whose authority was disputed had been treated in the same way and had their salaries terminated pending the outcome of a commission of inquiry into boundary disputes.
Guma said the provincial government had declared a dispute with the presidency over the decision to pay the izinduna.
The matter has been adjourned until March 1.