4-year-old chief’s R29.5m

2013-10-27 10:00

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Court battle over chieftaincy delays payout

A court battle over a four-year-old boy’s chieftaincy rights has delayed a payout of R29.5 million to a community near Richards Bay.

The battle over the chieftaincy of the Mbuyazi traditional authority at KwaMbonambi has been going on for as long as little Phatokuhle has been alive.

The chieftancy comes with a R150 000-a-year cut from a BEE deal between the Mbonambi clan and Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) as part of a R66 million land claim.

Three other communities in the area, which were part of the same claim, have already received R3 million a year since 2009 and a R17.5 million lump sum for community-development initiatives.

S’thembile Mbuyazi (29), the widow of deposed inkosi Sibusiso Mbuyazi, last month filed an application to the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn a Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling that stopped her from joining an earlier court action brought by her late husband against his removal.

She tried to join the high court case in her capacity as executor of her husband’s estate on behalf of Phatokuhle.

Mbuyazi told City Press she felt “obligated” to fight for her son’s inheritance and his right to his father’s title.

“My son is going to grow up and want answers from me about what I did to protect his father’s legacy. This is the least I can do for him and for my husband’s memory,” said Mbuyazi.

Tensions over the chieftaincy began when the initial claim was made by her husband’s father, inkosi Mtholeni Mbuyazi, for communal land seized under apartheid and leased in part to RBM for titanium mining for more than 30 years.

In June 2005, Mbuyazi, who had nine wives, died.

In August 2005 the clan met and named Sibusiso Mbuyazi, the eldest son of the inkosi’s first wife, MaJele, as his successor.

After Mbuyazi’s appointment was ratified, clan members, led by his half-brother Mkhanyiseni Mbonambi, began to agitate against him.

Mike Mabuyakhulu, the provincial MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, stepped in.

Mabuyakhulu appointed Professor Langalibalele Mathenjwa, the KwaZulu-Natal manager of the SA Heritage Resource Agency, to mediate.

Mathenjwa recommended that Mbuyazi be stripped of his title and replaced by Mbonambi, and in January 2010, then premier Zweli Mkhize carried out the recommendation.

Mbuyazi got an interdict from the Pietermaritzburg High Court preventing Mbonambi from acting as inkosi until the decision to dethrone him was reviewed.

He also applied to the court to have the Mbonambi Community Development Trust, set up to administer the payout, fund his litigation.

But he died last July, before a ruling could be made.

Mkhize had the review application and interdict dismissed on the grounds that Mbuyazi had died.

On July 9 this year, the court ruled in Mkhize’s favour, rescinding the interdict and allowing Mbonambi to act as inkosi.

But an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal was granted last month.

RBM spokesperson Fundi Dlamini confirmed that none of the Mbonambi community’s benefits had been paid.

“Unfortunately, before we could pay out the endowment, the leadership dispute arose. They are the only community that is not benefiting from the transaction,” said Dlamini.

“Their benefits are sitting in an escrow account managed by our legal firm while we are waiting for the dispute to be settled.

“Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do. We would like to see this issue resolved as soon as possible. It is delaying the development of the community. This is very unfortunate.”

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