Matatiele to stay in E Cape

2010-02-24 14:17

Johannesburg - Matatiele will stay in the Eastern Cape following a Constitutional Court ruling on Wednesday that the legislation used to transfer it from KwaZulu-Natal was not unconstitutional.

The Poverty Alleviation Network (PAN), representing the Matatiele community, had challenged the constitutionality of the Constitution Thirteenth Amendment Act 2007 and the Cross-Boundary Municipalities Laws Repeal and Related Matters Amendment Act.

In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Bess Nkabinde, the court dismissed the application.

The challenge was made mainly on the contention that the lawmaking process did not measure up to the constitutional benchmark for facilitating public involvement.

2005 move

The Matatiele municipality was moved from KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape in 2005.

PAN claimed that Parliament and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government merely went through the motions of public participation when they enacted the Constitution Thirteenth Amendment Act.

It submitted that the National Assembly, acting through its portfolio committee and the National Council of Provinces, failed to fulfil its constitutional obligations to facilitate public involvement by affording the people of Matatiele a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

PAN conceded that a public participation process was held, but submitted that only the views of Matatiele residents should have been sought by the KwaZulu-Natal legislature.

However, Nkabinde found no merit in their argument that, in allowing all interested parties to express their views, those of Matatiele residents were "watered down".

PAN had also sought to demonstrate that the Constitution Thirteenth Amendment Act was irrational because the decision to enact it was predetermined, lawmakers were instructed to vote in a particular way and the ruling party instructed its representatives in Parliament to vote for it.

Legitimate government end

Nkabinde found that this argument required the court to go investigate the motives of Parliament and the ruling party.

"The court cannot concern itself with the individual motives of legislators," Nkabinde said.

"If the court preoccupies itself with what precedes the passing of legislation (the motive), to the exclusion of its actual purpose, it would fail to focus on the proper object of inquiry."

She concluded that the legislation was rationally connected to a legitimate governmental end.

"The application must therefore be dismissed," she found.