Community to get R30m once chieftainship dispute is resolved

2016-09-18 08:24

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A seven-year chieftainship dispute that has delayed the release of more than R30 million in community development funding could soon be resolved.

The release of the funding has been delayed since 2010 because of a court battle over the chieftaincy at KwaMbonambi in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The R30 million in royalties is part of a land-claim agreement between Rio Tinto’s beleaguered Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) mine and the Mbuyazi communities, which include KwaMbonambi.

Three other communities hosting RBM, which generates 25% of KwaZulu-Natal’s mining revenue, have already received significant payouts, which are being used for, among other things, desperately needed job-creation projects.

The provincial government supported the opposition of a bid in the Pietermaritzburg High Court by Sithembile Mbuyazi, the widow of late Inkosi Sibusiso Mbuyazi, to be allowed to act as her minor son’s regent.

Now, the premier’s office in the province is expected to withdraw its support for a faction in the family, which could pave the way for RBM to commence with long-awaited community upliftment projects.

The province had removed Sibusiso as king after a complaint from the Mbuyazi royal council.

It then endorsed the installation of Mkhanyiseni, the younger brother, sparking the widow’s court action to protect her son’s position.

She asked the court to force the family to let her act in her son’s place as ruler of the clan.

Mkhanyiseni and his backers are understood to have failed to meet a court deadline to file affidavits backing his claim to the chieftainship.

This has forced the provincial government to reconsider its strategy.

A source close to the case told City Press that Economic Development MEC Sihle Zikalala was pushing behind the scenes for the dispute to be resolved.

He was drawn into the conflict after several work stoppages sparked by community protests forced RBM management to ask for the intervention.

Lulama Cele-Boughey, spokesperson for the Free KwaMbonambi Campaign, a community organisation backing Sithembile’s claim, said they had “heard rumours” that the province was withdrawing from the matter.

“We hear the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) is seriously contemplating withdrawing from the matter, which will free the way for [Queen] MaMkhize [Mbuyazi’s honorific] to act as regent. We know that the backers of Mkhanyiseni have failed to submit their affidavits to court, which will allow the matter to be settled. This is the outcome we have wanted all along. This will release funding that the community desperately needs,” she said.

Spokespeople for Zikalala and Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube did not respond to queries from City Press.

Mkhanyiseni could not be reached.

The mine, which has been operating for 40 years, was hit by a wave of protests by community members a few weeks ago demanding jobs and contracts, leading to production being halted on several occasions.

The tensions were worsened by the assassination of community activist Thokozani Mabika and his cousin at the end of July by unknown men.

Last month, Ronny Nzimande, the mine’s human resources general manager, was murdered in the driveway of his Richards Bay home in another apparent hit.

Nzimande had been involved in the suspension of five staff members, including community relations manager Fundi Dlamini, for allegedly violating the RBM code of conduct earlier in August. Police have not made any arrests in connection with these murders.

Read more on:    sihle zikalala

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