Orania lets election happen - but won't vote
The Afrikaner town of Orania in the Northern Cape has abandoned plans to seek a postponement of next week's local government elections in their area, spokesperson Carel Boshoff revealed on Friday.
"We retain the right, however, to challenge the validity of the election after the fact," he said.
The decision was taken during negotiations with the government in recent days, and was aimed at avoiding unnecessary conflict.
The town instead preparing to bring an urgent application before the Kimberley High Court, possibly this weekend, to stop the provincial government from officially abolishing Orania's existing local council.
Orania will ask the court to make an exception by allowing the existing Orania transitional representative council to remain in place, despite elections on Tuesday for the new combined Orania/Strydenburg/Hopetown, Boshoff said.
Earlier in the day, Orania representatives met the province's local government and housing MEC, Pakes Dikgetsi, asking him to abandon his intention of officially abolishing the town's local council.
Dikgetsi was unable to commit himself, as he had not yet had time to fully study the community's objections, Mpho Mogale, a consultant in Dikgetsi's department, said.
"They submitted their objections very late on Thursday, and the MEC had only 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 administrative 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 December 5 election. In the case of Orania, this was never done, effectively rendering an election in that town illegal.
Since the provincial government learnt of this discrepancy it has published a notice in the provincial gazette proclaiming its intention to abolish the Orania municipality. The notice gave November 30 as the deadline for comments.
Boshoff said the modified court action, seeking the continued existence of the Orania local council, was aimed at securing a sort of "insurance policy".
"We accept the stance of the government and the Municipal Demarcation Board that they are prepared to continue discussing issues surrounding Orania's self-determination after the election.
However, we are saying in that case they should not terminate our existing limited municipal independence."
Should the application be granted, it would mean that the new Orania/Strydenburg/Hopetown council would co-exist with the Orania representative council, Boshoff said. This anomaly would have to be cleared up in talks with the government after the municipal elections.
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 November 3 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.
Orania elected its own transitional representative council in 1995, and was busy with preparations to hold separate elections on Tuesday to elect new councillors.
Residents would not participate in the official poll.