ANC arrive in Matatiele

2008-11-09 00:00

There were scenes of joy among the people of Matatiele at the weekend when ANC leaders finally visited the town to start negotiations that may pave the way for Matatiele being ceded back to KwaZulu-Natal.

ANC general-secretary Gwede Mantashe, SACP secretary Blade Nzimande, Cosatu secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and provincial legislature chief whip Cyril Xaba spent more than 10 hours listening to the concerns of the people of Matatiele, who have since 2005 protested against being incorporated into the Eastern Cape.

During the realignment of borders in 2005, Matatiele was ceded to the Eastern Cape and Umzimkhulu was incorporated into KZN. The realignment of borders affected all 17 cross-border municipalities including Khutsong, which was moved from Gauteng to North West.

The changes sparked vehement protests in Khutsong and the ANC recently announced that the area will be ceded back to Gauteng.

Now the people of Matatiele, who are challenging the national government to reverse the decision, believe that the ANC will also help them to go back to KZN. They argue that service delivery is poor in the Eastern Cape and that it takes them more than eight hours to travel to Bhisho, the capital of the Eastern Cape.

Speaking after the marathon meeting with traditional leaders, priests and the business community, Mantashe said he was happy with the progress during negotiations, adding that they will visit Matatiele again in the next two weeks. The meeting was not open to the media.

“Negotiations gave us a wide range of views on this matter. We strongly believe that we need to engage to find a solution. We have taken a decision to come back again so that we can discuss this because there are many views that people of this area have about government’s decision to put them in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

But Mantashe warned that people should not assume that Matatiele will also go back to KZN because Khutsong was allowed to go back to Gauteng. “The decision will be taken after we have engaged thoroughly. No decision has been taken yet. Even on the issue of Khutsong, we also engaged before a decision was taken.”

The chairman of the Matatiele and Maluti crisis committee, Mandla Galo, said they were happy that ANC leaders had finally come to listen to their grievances. “We wrote Mantashe a letter early this year and he did not respond. We are happy that negotiations have finally started and we hope that the ANC will also listen to us as it has listened to the people of Khutsong,” he said.

Galo warned against the politicisation of the issue by individuals he claim want to remain in the Eastern Cape because of “vested interests”. “We have a few individuals who believe that they will lose tenders if Matatiele falls under KZN. They are very few, but powerful because they have positions in the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP. The majority of people want to be part of KZN. During public hearings, 5 686 people wanted Matatiele to be in KZN and only 80 wanted to be in the Eastern Cape.”

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