Orania court action looming

2000-12-01 17:52

Orania, Northern Cape - Court action may be inevitable after a meeting on Friday between representatives of the Northern Cape Afrikaner community, Orania, and the provincial government failed to resolve outstanding issues over the town's municipal status.

"We are on our way right now to meet our legal team in Kimberley to decide on the way forward," Orania spokesperson Carel Boshoff said.

According to Boshoff, the meeting reached a deadlock after Northern Cape local government and housing MEC Pakes Dikgetsi was unwilling to commit himself to a request to abandon his plans to officially abolish the existing Orania municipality.

However, Mpho Mogale, a consultant in Dikgetsi's department, said the MEC has not had enough time to study Orania's objections.

"They submitted their objections very late yesterday, and the MEC has only had last night and this morning to go through them," Mogale said.

"He could not give them an answer as he still has to apply his mind to the matter. Only after studying all the submissions, about 200 pages in total, will he be able to take a decision as to whether or not to disestablish the Orania municipality."

Dikgetsi's decision, Mogale said, would hopefully be taken by Friday afternoon.

The latest dispute between Orania and the government relates to recent steps taken by the province to rectify mistakes relating to the town's status prior to the local elections.

In terms of Article 12 of the Municipal Structures Act, all existing municipalities have to be officially abolished before the 5 December election.

In the case of Orania, this was never done, effectively rendering an election in that town illegal.

This was one of the major points to have been argued by the town in a court application for the poll to be postponed.

Since the provincial government learnt of this discrepancy, however, it has published a notice in the provincial gazette proclaiming its intention to abolish the Orania municipality.

The notice gave 30 November as the deadline for comments, prompting Orania to postpone its court application for an election postponement.

Should the town decide to go ahead with legal action, Monday would be the last possible day.

The respondents in the pending court case, 48 in total, include President Thabo Mbeki, Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, Home Affairs Minister Mangosutho Buthelezi, Northern Cape premier Manne Dipico, Dikgetsi, the Municipal Demarcation Board, and the Independent Electoral Commission.

The remaining respondents were made up of the Bo-Karoo district municipality and all local councils falling under its control, of which Orania was a part.

Orania's intended court action follows the failure by the government and the Municipal Demarcation Board to resolve the community's concerns over self-determination by the 3 November deadline announced by the town in October.

The community is objecting to its merger with Hopetown and Strydenburg into a single municipality.

The Afrikaner town, structured as a private settlement in 1991, maintains that its claim to self-determination is underpinned by the constitution.

In 1995, Orania elected its own transitional representative council, which will fall away after the 5 December municipal poll.

The town was busy with preparations to hold its own elections on the same day, and would not participate in the official poll, which would effectively rob it of its current independent municipal status. - Sapa