A fight over a community road, closed by amaBhaca traditional leader Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, has reached the courts, with four people arrested for malicious damage to property.
Diko, the husband of Khusela Diko, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, has also approached the courts seeking an urgent interdict to prevent community members from destroying his property.
This was after several villagers and members of the EFF led a protest in Ncunteni village demanding that a community road, closed by Diko several years ago for “security reasons”, be opened.
On January 14 the angry protesters physically removed the gates and fences across the road, which the king said was rerouted in agreement with the community in 2012.
Following the violent incident, which occurred in front of police from Mount Frere, four people were later arrested, including the branch chairperson of the EFF, Siviwe Myendeki, who was allegedly at the forefront of the protest.
In September City Press reported that the residents wanted the road, which initially passed next to the Eludzini royal residences, to be reopened after the king rerouted the road and placed a fence over it, forming part of his now larger residences.
When City Press visited the village last year, there were men putting up a gate across what used to be the road at Eludzini royal residences.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci confirmed to City Press last week that four people had been arrested in connection with the January 14 protest.
“The SA Police Service can confirm that four people were arrested on charges of malicious damage to property. They briefly appeared in the Mount Free Magistrates’ Court on January 27 and have been remanded. They will appear in court on February 5 for a formal bail application. Their ages range between 21 and 60,” said Soci.
Responding to allegations by the community that police were taking Diko’s side on the matter and were protecting him, Soci said police had acted on information received.
They had been deployed to monitor the protest. “Police have a legal obligation to protect the citizens and their property.”
Now community members face another legal hurdle. Diko has applied for an interdict against them.
The traditional leader wants to stop his subjects from going back to his royal residences to demonstrate and from causing further damage to his property.
The Umzimvubu Local Municipality is the first respondent and the EFF’s Myendeki is the second respondent in the court proceedings, which will be heard on March 6 in Mount Frere Magistrates’ Court.
In court papers, seen by City Press, Diko (the applicant) said in his founding affidavit that the damage caused to his property two weeks ago had cost more than R50 000.
He claimed he had been paying a security company R554 a day since the incident.
In the court papers, Diko, who has refused to comment on the issue, said since “the passage” – referring to the road the community wants reopened – was closed in 2012, there had been investment in and around it at an estimated value of R250 000.
In the founding affidavit which was supported by his mother, Nkosikazi Nombuyiselo Rose Diko, he claimed that at an imbizo in 2012, held in the Traditional Council in the presence of the Umzimvubu Local Municipality and Lubhacweni community members, it was decided that “the passage” joining Ncunteni and Lubhacweni roads be closed.
This would mean that the community would use the access road crossing through the locality.
Diko said, in court papers, that he prayed the matter would be treated on an urgent basis.
“This matter is urgent because the second respondent [EFF’s Myendeki] and his followers are threatening to come back and cause more damage. I [Diko] have been informed, which I verily believe, that the second respondent and his followers want my office to put pressure on the municipality to reconstruct the road. I [Diko] will suffer irreparable harm if the second respondent and his followers are not prevented from behaving in way they did,” he said.
Diko also charged that Myendeki and other people in the village had arrived at the royal place “singing riotous songs and armed with all sorts of dangerous instruments”.
“They were wearing EFF T-shirts. They wrongfully broke open the gate, damaged the wall of the gate, removed the fence of the yard and waged war against the royal family. Threats, abusive and insulting words were used with intent to provoke. They were shouting; they said they would open the passage forcefully,” said Diko.
He said Myendeki’s conduct and that of his followers was wrong and unlawful because they had no authority or court order to assemble and be violent.
The provincial chairperson of the EFF in the Eastern Cape, Yazini Tetyana, said the party had requested a meeting with Diko, hoping to resolve the issue amicably.
Tetyana said they hoped to meet Diko on Sunday.
They wanted him to drop the charges so that the four arrested people, who had already spent a week in prison, could be released.
“We are arranging a meeting with him [Diko] so that I can meet him personally to speak to him about what has transpired. Our main concern at this point is our members who are in prison for a cause that we think is accurate,” he said.
They also wanted to engage with the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA.
“We do not agree with what Diko has done. I believe we can still sit down with him and make sense to him.
“We don’t understand why the municipality is failing to handle the issue and are busy negotiating with him. What is there to negotiate with him about? If one can simply go and close the N2, what would happen? He [Diko] seems to be untouchable. He is a person who has all of a sudden become untouchable,” said Tetyana.
Nokhanyo Zembe, spokesperson for the Umzimvubu Local Municipality, said they had tried several times to intervene in the matter but Diko simply refused to open the road.
“The road belongs to the municipality,” she said.