Court scolds Limpopo premier for bias

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Limpopo premier Stanley Mathabatha. Photo: Daily Sun
Limpopo premier Stanley Mathabatha. Photo: Daily Sun


Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha has been criticised by a court for showing favouritism to relatives of his ANC comrade and MP Joseph Maswanganyi in 2020, when he recognised them as a traditional community and issued a certificate to Maswanganyi as senior traditional leader.

The Kgatla commission, led by Ramokone Kgatla, had investigated 568 disputes involving senior traditional leaders, headmen and headwomen in the province, and issued its final report to Mathabatha on May 29 2017.

It had recommended that the Maswanganyi traditional leadership be recognised – a decision that affected the jurisdiction of the Hlaneki Traditional Council in the Greater Giyani municipal area, as six villages – Ka-Maswanganyi, N’wa-Makena, Dzingidzingi, Bode, Dingamanzi and Basane – had to be transferred to new senior traditional leader, Khayizeni Maswanganyi.

Mkhacani Hlaneki and the Hlaneki Traditional Council approached the Polokwane High Court to review and set aside the commission’s decision. Polokwane High Court Judge Gerrit Muller duly issued an order on November 10 setting aside Mathabatha’s decision to recognise the Maswanganyi traditional community and Khayizeni Maswanganyi as senior traditional leader.

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Nevertheless, Mathabatha went ahead and issued a certificate of recognition to Maswanganyi.

By the time of going to press, Mathabatha’s spokesperson, Willy Mosoma, had not responded to questions sent to him on Thursday.

The court order had restored the six villages to the Hlaneki traditional community and ordered Mathabatha to withdraw any certificates that had been issued to headmen or headwomen for the villages.

Muller said the commission had said nothing about recognition of the Maswanganyi traditional community.

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“The premier was well aware of the pending review application, where the applicants sought to set aside the proceedings of the commission. This court must express its disquiet that [Mathabatha] proceeded to implement the recommendation of the commission, despite the pending application and despite assurances given that the applicants [Hlaneki and the Hlaneki Traditional Council] would be notified of any application to recognise the Maswanganyi traditional community,” said the judge.

The judge added that Hlaneki had been forced to institute the application to protect their rights and interest at considerable cost, while Mathabatha “litigated out of the public purse”.

“It appears that the premier was determined to implement the recommendations at all costs,” said Muller. He added that – based on the facts in the application – he was inclined to grant an interdict prohibiting the Maswanganyis from applying for senior traditional leadership again.

It was not required of the commission to determine the territorial area of the Maswanganyi. It was required of the commission to enquire about the existence of the senior traditional leadership of the Maswanganyi

Muller also noted that Mathabatha had allocated the six villages, which were under the Hlanekis, to the Maswanganyi traditional community without notifying the Hlanekis and also failed to afford them an opportunity to make representations on the land that had been under their jurisdiction since 1957.

The premier failed to apply the audi alteram partem [let the other side be heard] rule.

In another related application by Hlaneki to set aside the Kgatla commission’s recommendations, Muller also found that the commission had conducted an inspection in loco of the villages without inviting Hlaneki.

The judge said the commission had used the inspection as a disguise because it was aware that the Maswanganyis’ senior traditional leadership status was disputed and was also aware that a traditional community could not exist without a territorial area.

He said:

It was not required of the commission to determine the territorial area of the Maswanganyi. It was required of the commission to enquire about the existence of the senior traditional leadership of the Maswanganyi.

The court set aside the commission’s recommendation that the Maswanganyi senior traditional leadership status be restored.

The court order is a major boost for the Hlaneki community, especially following an announcement by the Council for Geoscience during the Limpopo mining investment conference last year that gold had been discovered in the Giyani area.

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