Utrecht is a small rural town 50km outside Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Coal mining, farming and cattle ranching are the predominant economic activities in the area. As a result of the closure of mines such as Durnacol, Spring Lake Collieries and Balgray Collieries, many residents have had to leave their homes in search of work in Newcastle factories. Unemployment levels have increased to about 55% since 1996. Income levels in Amajuba, of which Utrecht makes up 7%, are generally low.
The number of households that have an annual income of R9 600 per annum or less (R800 per month or less) has more than doubled since 1996. Some 48% of households in the district have no income at all.
The people of Amantungwa grew up on farms, but have been forced to live in nearby areas in Madadeni-Osizweni under conditions of tenancy and over-crowdedness. Many of them wish to return to Utrecht were they can become involved in agriculture.
Cast of characters:
Acting chief Latu Robson Khumalo: the late Latu Robson Khumalo, the son Elijah Qomintaba, was chosen to be a temporary chief because Velemu Qomintaba Khumalo’s sons declined the call to lead the Amantungwa in the 1980s. Velemu had four sons. Latu Robson Khumalo had been ruling the Amantungwa clan for over two decades when the Department of Traditional Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal removed him from his post, stating that Patrick Sphamandla Khumalo was the rightful chief.
Latu Robson’s position was terminated in 2007. During his chieftaincy Latu Robson lodged a sizeable land claim, comprising 131 properties, on behalf of the Amantungwa community. He also started a number of initiatives to develop the community including providing access to water, electricity and building roads. He died in February 2012.
Chief Patrick Sphamandla Khumalo: is the current chief of Amantungwa clan. He is the son of Simon Mgobo, who was one of Velemu’s sons. His father refused to take up the position of a chief in the 1980s. After over two decades of silence, Simon Mgobo wrote a letter to the Department of Traditional Affairs in 2006 stating that it is time the chieftaincy returned to the rightful people, meaning his son Patrick Sphamandla should be chief. Patrick Sphamandla assumed his duties officially as chief of Amantungwa. Other members of the royal family have contested Patrick Sphamandla’s chieftaincy, claiming that he was appointed without the family’s consultation. Although he is the rightful chief, according to the family tree, the Umdeni (clan) of Amantungwa doesn’t want him to rule. They have cited a number of corrupt acts which they believe Patrick Sphamandla is responsible for, including the theft of an irrigation system that cost over R1-million. The clan want him to be removed as chief.
Ndlunkulu Khumalo: is the late chief Latu Robson Khumalo’s wife. Since her husband’s death in February she took it upon herself to continue the fight against Patrick Sphamandla’s chieftaincy. She claims she has been chosen by the family as the preferred leader.
Amantungwa Development Trust (ADT): since the 1980s, the late acting chief Latu Robson Khumalo made a number of representations to various forerunners of the Department of Land affairs requesting the re-allocation of certain land parcels in the Utrecht area to the Amantungwa community, who were previously dispossessed of their land. Re-allocation of land would enable the regrouping and the redevelopment of Amantungwa into a prosperous farming peasant community. A majority of the beneficiaries lived under dire conditions in the Madadeni-Osizweni area and wished to secure a place where they could live peacefully and also practise agriculture. ADT was established in 1997 and the land acquired through the land reform programme was supposed to be transferred into this account. Latu Robson claimed for 131 properties, of which only 18 were acquired.
Izimbuthu Community Trust (ICT): in 2007 the KwaZulu-Natal regional land claims commission advised Latu Robson and the Amantungwa community to open a new trust which would be called the Izimbuthu Community Trust. The commission said this would speed up the land acquisition process. After all the 18 properties were transferred into the new trust, the land commission went back to Amantungwa in 2010 and told them having two trusts caused confusion. It recommended that ICT be dissolved. ICT was dissolved and its trustees suspended. The land commission assured the community that properties acquired through ICT trust would be transferred back to the original trust, ADT. Two years later, and the transfer still hadn’t happened. In the meantime, 15 different families have been chased off their land. Amantungwa community claims that the properties are being rented out to white farmers and the community doesn’t benefit. Chief Sphamandla Khumalo and suspended trustees of ICT trust have been accused of benefiting from the land by outsourcing it.
Department of Traditional Affairs: The Amantungwa clan has accused the Department of Traditional Affairs of intentionally recognising Patrick Sphamandla Khumalo as chief of Amantungwa even though the family didn’t choose or recommend him to the government or the premier as their preferred leader.
KZN regional land commission: The KwaZulu-Natal land commission advised Amantungwa clan to open a new trust, ICT even though the community already had a trust, ADT. The community dealt with a man called Mdu Mashabane at the land commission.
MEC Nomsa Dube: is the MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs in the province. The Amantungwa family has submitted papers to her office stating their concerns over how Chief Sphamandla Patrick Khumalo was appointed. They’ve also stated that the family has chosen Ndlunkulu Khuma as their leader.
Utrecht police: the Amantungwa people claim that the local police station takes no action when they complain about chief Patrick Sphamandla Khumalo. The community says when it tries to open a case against the chief, the local police station doesn’t oblige.
Khethekile Mining: this concern operates the coal mine situated in Uitkomst, a piece of land that the Amantungwa clan claim is under its jurisdiction. The community has said that the mine hasn’t fulfilled its promises to the community. According to Amantungwa, the mine promised to develop the community by building roads and schools, and also employing the local people to work in the mines. Johann Wagner, financial director of Khethekile Mining, however, said the land where the mine is based doesn’t belong to Amantungwa but to Jabulani Msibi’s clan, which means Khethekile Mining is not responsible for developing Amantungwa community. In addition, he alleged that they’ve got a contract at the mine, they’re not the actual mine owners. A company called Brandywine Valley Investments owns the mine.
Brandywine Valley Investments: owns Uitkomst Colliery where the coal mine is based. Brandywine Valley Investments received the mining rights on 7 September 2005.
Bongani Khumalo: is chief Patrick Sphmandla Khumalo’s brother and works at Khethekile Mining. In the space of four years he has risen from being an intern to one of the directors of the company.
Jabulani Msibi: is a representative of the Qophumlando community. The land commission granted them the land at Uitkomst even though the Amantungwa clan say they claimed the piece of land first. Jabulani Msibi claims that they have a right to own Uitkomst because they were the original occupants of that land. He’s also a director at Khethekile Mining.