Sigcau will be remembered for fighting for what he believed in

2013-03-31 10:00

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Mpondombini Justice Sigcau, the deposed king of Eastern Pondoland who died of a stroke earlier this week, will be remembered as a man who fought to the end for what he believed in.

He was 71 years old when he died at the Qaukeni royal residence near Lusikisiki in Eastern Cape.

He passed away at a time when the Constitutional Court was still hearing his disputed claim to the kingship of his people, following the ruling of the Nhlapo commission on traditional leadership disputes that resulted in him losing the title he had inherited from his father and former president of the Transkei Bantustan government Botha Sigcau in 1978.

The commission recognised his nephew, King Zanozuko Sigcau, as the legitimate king of all the Mpondo people in 2010. While all the other dethroned monarchs retained their benefits as “principal traditional leaders” until death, Sigcau was the only king who got stripped of everything outright.

He immediately took President Jacob Zuma, the commission and seven other respondents to the North Gauteng High Court, but he lost the case last year. Sigcau subsequently approached the Constitutional Court, which heard his appeal of the high court decision last this month.

Around the time Zuma the ruling of the commission Sigcau suffered diabetes-related complications, and subsequently had both his legs amputated at the 1 Military hospital in Pretoria.

Sigcau will also be remembered for his role in opposing foreign mining interests in the Wild Coast area of Xolobeni. The dispute over the economic benefits versus the long-term impact of mining on the scenic region of the Eastern Cape divided the Mpondo people down the middle.

Others argued that it was futile to oppose mining by the Australian-led consortium that wanted to mine titanium deposits when there was so much poverty in Pondoland, and when locals eked their meagre living by providing labour to the mines outside the province.

There were also concerns that people would be forced off their ancestral land, and that eco-tourism would be hurt by mining.

Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA president Patekile Holomisa said Sigcau and his wife MaSobhuza did not want development to occur at the expense of their people’s natural heritage.

“They understood the plight of AmaMpondo, but they were also aware that the beauty of the Wild Coast was attributable to the lack of development. He felt poverty and unemployment could be tackled without destroying their heritage, such flora and fauna,” Holomisa said.

In 2011, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu revoked an earlier government decision to grant the Xolobeni mining licence.

Sigcau also opposed the route Sanral had chosen for the Wild Coast’s N2 toll road project on the grounds that it favoured the mining companies, and not the development of the area. Some believed that his loss of the throne was punishment for blocking the two projects, but there was no evidence for this.

A former rugby player for the erstwhile “Black national rugby team” in his youth, Sigcau was awarded the honorary Springbok blazer in the 1990s for having played prop for the team.

The deposed king’s social worker John Clarke once asked him about the kind of player he was.

“I could run very fast for a prop and the opposition (the coloured National Team) were beaten because I would receive the ball on the wing and run around their wings and fullback and score in the corner.

“But as to what sort of player I was, you had better ask my team mates not me,” he told Clarke.

His sister Stella Sigcau served as a minister in both former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki’s administrations before she died in 2006.

Sigcau is survived by his wife of 35 years, and three adult children Wezizwe, Bekiwe and Zulu.

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