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Contralesa and Stellenbosch municipality butt heads over ‘initiation site’

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A dispute between the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the Stellenbosch municipality over an initiation site has reached the high court.

Contralesa and the Basotho and Hlubi Initiation School hauled the municipality before the high court in Cape Town this weekend to compel it to allow the use of its property, the Idas Valley Plantation, as an initiation site for abeSotho,amaHlubi and amaXhosa.

The initiation period started at midnight on Friday and will end on January 5. The initiation forums want to have the municipality’s decision to close the site reviewed and set aside and seek an order preventing it from interfering with the use of the site during the initiation period. In an affidavit, Contralesa’s Western Cape secretary, chief Lungelo Nokwaza, said the municipality denied the initiation forums access to the land on November 8.

He said abeSotho, amaHlubi and amaXhosa had used the land for the past 26 years and abided by the agreement with the municipality. There had never been any fire or hazards arising from the initiation. The litigants had “derived a legitimate and reasonable expectation that the status quo would be maintained. Obviously within the confines of the law.”

Nokwaza said the municipality’s decision not to permit them to use the site had been preceded by rumours that they would be denied access due to a fire that had broken out about nine kilometres away. In a letter to the traditional leaders, the municipality confirmed its decision to close the site as a fire risk.

“For the past 11 years initiation schools were temporarily allowed within the parameters of the law on municipal land during the summer initiation season,” the letter reads. “During last year’s initiation school a fire broke out and subsequently the Winelands Fire Protection Association informed the municipality that no burning permit was issued to the municipality.”

Nokwaza said in the affidavit that the municipality had frustrated the initiation forums’ efforts to resolve the impasse.

“In the intervening period and prior to the initiation forums receiving the official communique, serious and desperate attempts have been made seeking a sit-down with the municipality’s representatives to find an amicable solution, but all those attempts were continuously ignored,” the affidavit reads.

“The traditional communities representatives even went as far as holding peaceful pickets outside the municipal offices, with the sole intention of seeking an audience from the management of the municipality, and needless to state that all those attempts were fruitless.”

Nokwaza said families had already “spent their last savings and spared no efforts in preparing their sons to go through this sacred rite of passage”.

“As part of the preparation for the initiation school, the initiates are already in their kraals in Gugulethu and Nyanga … and have been there for the past two weeks in anticipation of leaving for Stellenbosch this coming weekend, as planned and as promised.”

Nokwaza said the initiates could not go back to their communities without completing the rite.

“As we speak, two bulls that are slaughtered in preparation for the boys’ departure are already purchased and awaiting ritualised slaughter and cannot be utilised for any other customary ritual except the current one.

“The decision of the municipality was taken in an unfair and arbitrary manner with the result that the applicants’ rights have been adversely affected.”

Nokwaza said the initiation forums had also approached the office of the public protector, but the mediation process failed. In a letter to the forums, dated November 17, municipal manager Geraldine Mettler said the department of cultural affairs and sport (DCAS) had informed the municipality that an alternative site had been identified.

“On November 8, the DCAS informed us that an alternative site was identified near Theewaterskloof dam between Grabouw and Villiersdorp, where the initiation school can be accommodated,” the letter reads.

The municipality indicated it would oppose the court application. Nokwaza wanted the matter to be heard on an urgent basis, but two judges on urgent roll declined to hear it. On Friday, judge Elizabeth Steyn said the matter was not ready to be heard and the urgency appeared to be self-created.

Source: TimesLive

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