‘Hoodwinked’ Izindunas threat to polls over being short-changed

Ballot boxes. | Independent Archives

Ballot boxes. | Independent Archives

Published May 22, 2024


Durban — After a decade-long wait for their backpay, several Izinduna (headmen) are now threatening to boycott next week’s elections along with their rural communities if the government does not pay them promptly.

While the KwaZulu-Natal government claims to have paid the Izinduna, some told the Daily News they have been waiting since 2013 for the backpay, which collectively reportedly amounted to more than R500 million.

Among the Izinduna who had not been paid was Zwelinjani Mpungose from Nkandla, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“I have been waiting for many years for the government to backpay me, but I have not received anything from them. I have not received even a cent despite the government’s promise to pay as early as 2019,” said Mpungose.

The irate Induna added: “This will leave us with no option but to boycott the elections due to the government’s empty promises.”

Another Induna, Bhekinkosi Ngema, was equally enraged, accusing the government of hoodwinking them.

“I have been expecting to get my money for years and I am tired. The government is taking us for a ride. I have been waiting in vain for my backpay. We are pleading with the government to pay or else we’ll dissuade our communities from voting next week.”

The Izinduna, who act as a bridge between their communities and local chiefs, said they were expecting to be paid just more than R300 000 last year. Induna Sizakele Nhlebela said she was only paid R150 000 instead of the R300 000 she was expecting.

The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), which handled the matter, issued a stern warning, saying no one was allowed to block people from going to voting stations.

“Preventing people from exercising their right to vote is against the law,” warned Nonala Ndlovu, the spokesperson for Cogta.

More than 5 million people are registered to vote in KZN.

On the claims made by Izinduna over the unpaid backpay, Nonala said the government had already paid many Izinduna, but admitted that some were yet to be paid owing to challenges faced by the department.

“Izinduna who are still alive and those still in service and eligible for backpay have been paid.”

The challenge, she said, was with some Izinduna who are now deceased but were eligible for payment.

“While some have been paid there are others who have not been paid owing to the complicated procedures that are part of dealing with the affairs/estate of deceased persons.

“The department is working tirelessly in conjunction with the Master of the High Court to resolve and pay.”

In 2021, more than 3000 Izinduna in the province demanded their backpay which they claimed, at the time, had ballooned to R1.4 billion since 2013 when former president Jacob Zuma gazetted their backpay.

However, the amount had since decreased drastically as the provincial government had already coughed up millions to backpay them.

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