Proposed N2 highway splits amaMpondo

2013-05-19 01:00

The proposed N2 Wild Coast highway between East London and Durban has split the amaMpondo nation right down the middle, with opposing factions calling each other names and threatening retribution.

The nation is still mourning the death of their monarch, King Mpondombini Justice Sigcau, who died at the age of 71 after suffering a stroke two months ago.

Warring factions in his nation have been at loggerheads since President Jacob Zuma announced the findings of the Nhlapo Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims in 2010, which recognised Mpondombini’s nephew, Zanozuko Sigcau, as the rightful king, while Mpondombini was stripped of the status – which he had enjoyed since 1978.

He took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which is yet to make a determination.

The late king was known to be opposed to the toll road.

But last Saturday, Minister of Rural Development Gugile Nkwinti met with King Zanozuko, who gave his blessing for the project to go ahead, triggering an angry reaction from the Mpondombini faction who were not part of the meeting.

This week, Nkwinti’s spokesperson, Mthobeli Mxothwa, said the project would go ahead.

“The minister met with the amaMpondo and their king. They have agreed that the project must go ahead. The kings is very excited about the development and wants it to start as soon as possible,” Mxothwa said.

He said Nkwinti, who is the chair of the Presidential Intervention Coordinating Committee, had requested the meeting with the king after a long standoff with the amaMpondo regarding the construction of the highway.

Mandilive Cinani, speaking on behalf of the faction sympathetic to Mpondombini, said the meeting Nkwinti had with King Zanozuko in Flagstaff was null and void.

“There was no meeting of amaMpondo in Flagstaff. That was a group of factionalists who are trying to cause anarchy in this nation. Zanozuko is not our king. He cannot hold meetings on our behalf,” Cinani said, adding that Zanozuko’s status as king was still subject to a Constitutional Court ruling after the late Mpondombini challenged him.

Cinani lamented government for dividing the amaMpondo over the issue of the highway.

“Perhaps what they (government) want is for us to fight physically as amaMpondo. They are creating a lot of confusion and people on the ground are becoming very impatient. This is a very delicate situation (N2 highway) and has caused a lot of unprecedented tension,” Cinani said.

Cinani said Zanozuko did not represent the interests of the amaMpondo and was a “puppet” of government.

He said the toll road could not happen until there was proper consultation.

Zanozuko’s spokesperson, Ntsizakalo Ngalo, hit back, calling Cinani a “stupid fool” who knew nothing about the amaMpondo.

He said the toll road had received the blessing of King Zanozuko and would go ahead as planned.

“Anyone who stands in the way of development will face the wrath of the amaMpondo. The king has spoken that the development must go ahead. No one is going stop that from happening,” said a fuming Ngalo.

He said there was only one king of the amaMpondo and that was Zanozuko.

The public spat between the two rival amaMpondo factions comes in the wake of claims by KwaZulu-Natal government officials that Sanral, the SA National Roads Agency Limited, had scrapped the plans to build the highway. KwaZulu-Natal is known to be against the highway.

On Tuesday, Sapa reported that the chair of KwaZulu-Natal’s transport portfolio committee, Mxolisi Kaunda, said a decision not to construct the toll road was taken at a recent strategic meeting in Cape Town.

Kaunda said KwaZulu-Natal was already overtolled and adding more toll roads would “overburden” the province.

However, Sanral refuted the claims this week, instead welcoming the decision by the amaMpondo to support it.

In a statement, Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said: “Now that we have buy-in from the community, thanks to the vision of the minister and the Pondo kings and chiefs, we can move forward with this project, which will add to our already world-class national road network.”

In her state of the province address early this year, Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet said the first phase of the project would start with the construction of two bridges, the largest in the southern hemisphere.

The proposed N2 Wild Coast highway will stretch from the Gonubie interchange in East London in the Eastern Cape to the Isipingo interchange, south of Durban.

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