A family has apparently been banished from their village near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal after they joined a political party opposed by the local chief.
The Bhengu family said they were shocked when they were expelled from Maqongqo, a place they have called home for more than 50 years.
They were banished on Wednesday and were given until today to move out of the area. They said they had nowhere to go.
The banishment came after some of the 11 family members publicly joined the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in September last year.
After that, they said, their father Bhekumuzi Bhengu was never allowed to speak or address traditional gatherings with the chief and his kinsmen again.
On Wednesday, B hekumuzi’s four sons – aged 36, 32, 27 and 24 – got into a quarrel with the six sons of the local induna (headman), Themba Dlamini , after they apparently questioned why the Bhengus were wearing IFP T-shirts.
“We were wearing the T-shirts unaware that we were offending anyone. We wore them because we support the IFP,” said Thembinkosi Bhengu, the eldest of Bhekumuzi’s sons.
Thembinkosi said the two groups engaged in a stick fight but nobody was seriously injured and the matter was not reported to the police.
“We did not think the police would be able to help in something that involved the induna,” he said.
However later that day, Dlamini and another traditional leader, Nhlakanipho Maphumulo, informed the Bhengus that they were being expelled from the traditional area because they had “brought the notorious behaviour of the IFP” into the village.
Nomkhosi Bhengu, another family member, said the family was traumatised by the decision.
“Nobody is working at home. We don’t know where we are going to get the money to move, nor build a house somewhere,” she said.
Another family member, Mbali Bhengu, called upon the government to intervene and change the power of traditional leaders to enforce unreasonable decisions.
“We never thought joining the IFP would turn the traditional leader against us. There is so much tension between Maphumulo and Bhengu families since we publicly joined the IFP last year,” she said.
Maphumulo, a prominent member of the ANC, denied that he had expelled the family because they had joined the IFP.
“I chased them away because the Bhengu boys are notorious in the community,” he said. “We have received numerous complaints from the community about those boys you are talking about.”
Maphumulo was adamant that he wanted the Bhengus gone for good from his area.
“They are no longer members of this community. After Friday we don’t want to see any member of that family walking around here.”
IFP KwaZulu-Natal leader Blessed Gwala said it was a disgrace that almost 22 years into democracy there were still “such barbaric incidents where people are victimised just because they exercise their rights to choose a particular political party”.
“What is worse is that this implicates inkosi and induna traditional leaders who are supposed to be custodians of peace, democracy and ubuntu.”
Gwala said he would take up the matter with the relevant structures, including ANC leaders, with a view to ensuring that the Bhengu family returned to the area and be protected from intimidation.
Provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesman Lennox Mabaso said the department was aware of the matter.
“As the department we are going to engage with relevant stakeholders to bring a solution to the concern,” Mabaso said yesterday.
Provincial ANC chairman Sihle Zikalala said they had not been informed about the incident.