In 2006 Eric Nxumalo lodged a claim with the Commission on Traditional Disputes and Claims in which he sought restoration of the kingship of the amaShangana and recognition of his title as king.
Nxumalo claimed he was the great-grandson of the Soshangana who fled from Zulu King Shaka, and was entitled to recognition as king of the amaShangana.
The commission found the kingship of the amaShangana existed between 1828 and around 1897. Its disintegration scattered its subjects to different parts of Southern Africa, including Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
The commission’s authority was limited to investigating and deciding traditional leadership claims and disputes which arose after September 1, 1927.
The commission found the kingship of the amaShangana disintegrated long before that time. Because no good grounds had been shown for considering events prior to that date, it dismissed Nxumalo’s claim.
The Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act empowered the commission to make a final decision on the claim, which the president was required to implement.
However, the act was amended after the commission made its finding.
The amendment created a new commission which was only authorised to make recommendations to the president, who then makes the ultimate decision.
The president purported to make a final decision under the amended act not to recognise the kingship of the amaShangana and publicly announced the decision.
Nxumalo applied to the high court to review and set aside the decisions of the commission and the president. The court dismissed the application.
Nxumalo then unsuccessfully applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
He then approached the Constitutional Court and argued that the high court judgment ignored relevant facts in dismissing his review application.
The Constitutional Court dismissed Nxumalo’s appeal with respect to the commission’s decision. It however set aside the president’s decision to not recognise him as king.
It found the president acted outside of his powers by making a decision in terms of the amended act instead of the original act.