Matatiele redemarcation invalid
Pietermaritzburg - The acts under which Matatiele was ceded from KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape have been declared invalid by the Constitutional Court because of insufficient public consultation by KZN.
The legislation was passed by parliament last year and saw, among other areas, Matatiele redemarcated from KZN into the Eastern Cape in March this year.
This was despite heavy opposition from the Matatiele/Maluti Mass Action Campaign Organising Committee (MMMACOC).
The group complained that many people in the area did not want to move to the Eastern Cape.
They alleged that the consultation process was overlooked in Matatiele.
Local Government MECs in both provinces said they had met the consultation requirements.
The committee and other stakeholders in Matatiele subsequently challenged the constitutionality of the legislation.
Judge Sandile Ngcobo ruled that the part of the Constitution Twelfth Amendment Act that alters the boundary of KZN is invalid as it was not adopted in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Constitution.
The Cross-Boundary Municipalities Laws Repeal and Related Matters Act, to the extent that it relates to the boundary of KZN, is unconstitutional for the same reasons.
Although the Eastern Cape held public hearings on the matter, KwaZulu-Natal did not.
There was therefore not sufficient public participation in the legislative process, which is inconsistent with the Constitution.
The ruling gave new hope to opposition groups that want the redemarcation process reversed.
Ngcobo suspended the order of suspension for 18 months, giving parliament an opportunity to rectify the omission, if it wishes to.
MMMACOC chair Musa Gcabo was pleased with the ruling, saying it confirmed the committee's criticism that the process was flawed.
"The court vindicated us - this was a burden on our shoulders for too long.
"However, it concerns us that in the next 18 months government may want to proceed with its intention to incorporate Matatiele into the Eastern Cape.
"What the committee wants is that parliament appoints an administrator that will run Matatiele for the next 18 months while holding public hearings on the matter," said Gcabo.
Vioce of the people
He added that the committee hoped to meet President Thabo Mbeki this month to discuss the matter.
Speaking on behalf of the applicants, attorney Patrick Dewes expressed delight that the voices of the people of Matatiele have not gone unheard.
"The Constitutional Court has shown, yet again, that government is not a law unto itself and must have regard for the principles entrenched in our Constitution."
Spokesperson for the office of the speaker at KZN legislature, Bhekisisa Mncube, said the speaker had not read the ruling and did not want to comment yet.
"We respect the integrity of the court and will welcome whatever decision it takes," said Mncube.