Matatiele loses legal battle

2010-02-25 00:00

MATATIELE residents yesterday lost their protracted constitutional battle to have the town’s incorporation into the Eastern Cape overturned.

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the incorporation into the Eas­tern Cape is neither unconstitutional nor invalid.

The ruling was met with bitter disappointment by the Matatiele/Maluti Mass Action Organising Committee (MAOC). Eight organisations under the umbrella of MAOC had taken the matter to ConCourt.

The organisation has vowed to continue the struggle to become part of KwaZulu-Natal.

MAOC’s Mandla Gallo said: “If we give up now it will be a blow to constitutional democracy and the right of people to have a say in the go­vernance of their lives.”

Gallo claims the highest court of the land has become politicised given the recent controversy over the alleged political appointment of judges.

“I believe this ruling is meant to allow the government to remedy the situation on its own.”

He said minister of Co-operative Governance Sicelo Shiceka has yet to pronounce on the outcome of the referendum that was held last year, despite the fact that the minister had told residents he would announce the results of the referendum before December 25, 2009.

Gallo said he believes that once the referendum results are released, it will once more prove that the majority of people want the town back in KZN.

He also believes there is a contradiction in ConCourt’s latest ruling and the one it made in August 2006.

In its previous ruling, the court said it is unconstitutional for Matatiele to be incorporated into the Eastern Cape because certain sections of the Constitution had not been followed. It gave the government 18 months to remedy the situation.

In yesterday’s judgment, Justice Bess Nkabinde said it is not up to the Constitutional Court to tell government what to do.

“This is precisely what they did in the pre­vious ruling; they told government what to do — why not now?” Gallo said

In her ruling, Nkabinde said that it is not for courts to decide in which province people must live, or to se­cond-guess the option chosen by Parliament and the provincial legislatures to achieve their policy goals. Furthermore, she said, a court cannot interfere with legislation simply because it disagrees with its purpose or the means by which the purpose is achieved, unless it can be shown that the objective is arbitrary or capricious.

Nkabinde concluded that “public participation had indeed been facilitated by both Parliament and the national legislature”.

She rejected the applicants’ argument that the residents of Matatiele have yet to be consulted in the law-making process.

In dismissing the application by the Matatiele residents, the court ordered each party to pay its own costs.

Kenny Giggs of the Cedarville and District Farmers’ Association said they were very disappointed with the judgment.

“I find it strange the court should rule that the government had legitimate reasons to incorporate Matatiele into the Eastern Cape.

“Even minister Sicelo Shiceka promised to give us answers in December last year, but is nowhere to be found, and the official results of the referendum were never published,” said Biggs.

He added that since the Eastern Cape’s Alfred Nzo District Municipality took control of Matatiele, the town’s sanitation, water and roads are deteriorating.

The ANC spokesman in the Alfred Nzo region, Mthetheleli Ntsengwana, said the decision clearly shows everyone that Matatiele belonged to the Eastern Cape from the outset.

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