/ 22 November 2019

Jinxed by the Ingonyama board

Jinxed By The Ingonyama Board
Bucks: King Goodwill Zwelithini is the sole trustee of the Ingonyama Trust, to which residents have paid millions of rands in rent and leases




My back and eyes are aching. The bulk of the past two days has been spent hunched over the laptop, crawling my way through page after page of court papers. The high court application to halt the Ingonyama Trust Board’s (ITB’s) programme to convert permission to occupy certificates into residential leases is finally being heard on Friday.

As a result, since mid-morning on Monday, I’ve been wading my way through a seemingly endless lake of legal documents — heads of arguments, affidavits, legal precedents, from the applicants in the case, the ITB, the co-operative governance and land reform department and the house of traditional leaders.

It made sense to read all of this again before starting to write anything. It’s been a while since the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) first filed its application on behalf of Lawrence Zikhali and other residents of Ingonyama Trust land, who have been joined in the case by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution and the Rural Women’s Movement.

There’s a lot of narrative to recall, along with a load of technical argument, so a re-read of everything is essential. There’s the heads of argument, laying out the key thrust of the legal arguments by each of the parties that have been waiting to be read since last week. It’s a lot, but a credible job requires that each of the several thousand pages involved gets read — at least once — so here I am, hunchbacked.

Finally, I’m done with the last head of argument, the ITB’s. I get a coffee going, get ready to start writing.

There’s been a considerable amount going on with the ITB since the first papers were filed, which also has to be factored in.

Two of the ITB’s board members bailed a couple of months ago ahead of the submission of the board’s annual report to Parliament, which now wants the board to give it a breakdown of all the money it has allocated to residents. The board in turn says it is only accountable to government for its budget allocation, and not for money it takes in from leases or concessions.

There have also been meetings between the rural development and land reform minister, Thoko Didiza, and King Goodwill Zwelithini, on whose behalf the board administers the land — and issues the leases — on the sidelines of the case. Some serious juggling lies ahead, but I’m game.

I check my mail.

There’s a note from the LRC.

My heart drops. There’s a leaden feeling in my stomach, a sick emptiness.

I start sweating.

Friday’s hearing is off. The provincial judge president wants the matter heard by a full Bench over two consecutive days, so Friday won’t happen. There’s no suitable date available between now and the end of the court’s last session of the year, so the matter is likely to be heard only in February.

I feel the blood draining from my face. This is not cool. No hearing means no story.I’ve just spent two days crippling and blinding myself for nothing. By the time the case sits several months will have passed. I’ll have to read this all over again come February.

That’s not the only issue. There’s a “two days of work” hole in the paper with my name on it. I need to come up with a replacement story — and quickly — preferably before I break the bad news to the lahnees in Jo’burg. There are a couple of things I put on hold so I could work the ITB story, but making them work for this week means I’m not going to get much sleep between now and Thursday.

The cellphone goes.

It’s Small James, one of my sons. He’s finally almost home from Lagos after just more than three days of trying to get a flight back to South Africa.

My bundle of joy was among those who got caught up in the mayhem of the SAA strike. James was booked on an flight to Jozi on Saturday and, like thousands of others, found himself stranded in a foreign country while the national carrier and the trade unions slug it out.

Unlike most people stranded by the strike, Small James was lucky. The people he was working with were happy to look after him, so he ended up having a free holiday and visit to the Shrine while he waited for a flight home. The day and a bit of a detour spent inDubai can’t have been much fun, but at least James is on the way home.

I don’t see SAA surviving — at least not in its present form. Throwing money at the national carrier doesn’t make it profitable. It never has. Selling it looks like the only option.

Perhaps we can find a buyer willing to take on such a money trap.