eBook One: History


The Promise of Justice was conceived as a four part eBook series (The Story, His Story, My Story and Our Story), to tell a story to “face our own truth” so as to “free our history for future flowerings” (Ben Okri). 

 This is a colour version, PDF (file size 10MB) of eBook One: History can be purchased above. 

 Part I: The Story explains the back story that got King Justice Sigcau and his family into trouble with the government of President Jacob Zuma. The trouble started when the Mpondo Royal Family opposed Government plans to offer mining rights to an Australian mining entrepreneur Mark Caruso, over the titanium-rich coastal dunes of the Mpondoland Wild Coast. The plans included a grand scheme conceived by the CEO of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), Mr Nazir Alli, to offer a commercial tolling concession to construct an ambitious new tolled highway, with large bridge crossings over the four deep river gorges that define the Wild Coast. 

 The Story introduces the key players in what became the dominant environmental news story between 2007 and 2011 – the successful campaign of activism, advocacy and confrontation with the Powers that Be by the AmaDiba coastal community residing along the Wild Coast. It showed that, whereas the State might own mining rights, human rights belong to people - since these are entrenched in the Constitution, human rights must always trump mining rights.  With King Justice Sigcau upholding the human rights of the AmaDiba to decide their local destinies locally, and the South African Human Rights Commission affirming that, the Government was forced to revoke the mining rights it had illegally awarded to an Australian backed venture capital outfit.  It was a remarkable triumph of civil courage.

 That ought to have been the end of the matter. Alas it wasn’t. King Justice Sigcau was deposed by President Zuma’s Government, intent on removing a troublesome obstacle to both the Perth-based mining entrepreneur Mark Caruso and Sanral CEO Mr Nazir Alli who was determined to ensure his grand civil engineering scheme would prevail – even if it meant undermining the Mpondo Royal family. Would a human-rights based constitutional framework empower a traditional leader with sufficient authority to overcome the power of an elected government? Would the Promise of Justice prevail?

 Part II: His Story which sharpens the focus on the courtroom drama of King Justice Sigcau, in his battle to regain the Kingship from his nephew Zanuzuko Sigcau, who had been named by President Jacob Zuma as the King of amaMpondo.  King Justice Sigcau, believing it to be a travesty of justice and an affront to the right of amaMpondo to decide on such matters among themselves, went all the way to the Constitutional Court in his efforts to restore the kingship to himself and his successors according to the dictates of Mpondo customary law. 

 Because his case needed to be argued on the basis of history, the story took on a whole new dimension.  His Story opened up an all but forgotten episode of history – the legal battle of his great, great grandfather King Sigcau ka Mqikela, in his attempt to regain his freedom after Cape Prime Minister Cecil John Rhodes had arbitrarily imprisoned him in 1895.  Paradoxically this new dimension proved to be strangely ancient – illustrative of an archetype that recurs throughout history, where the quest for mineral wealth and imperialist power-plays conflict with traditional authority and indigenous cultural values and customs.

 Ever since vast mineral wealth was discovered in the latter half of the 19th Century, nowhere has this archetypal conflict been so starkly illustrated than in the history of South Africa.  Nowhere else in the world can one find a city of the size of Johannesburg that has come into being entirely because of the mineral wealth beneath it.

 Burgeoning urbanisation has in turn created massive traffic congestion and pollution, which Sanral CEO Nazir Alli also undertook to solve by means of another grand engineering scheme, the imposition of electronic tolling of the Gauteng freeways.

 Although I have been working with the Mpondo on the Wild Coast for eight years, I happen to live in Johannesburg.   Given that the residents of Gauteng and the Wild Coast have shared in common an opposition to the ambitions of Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, the civil courage of the Mpondo rippled out to them too.  It inspired a highly principled Johannesburg business leader Wayne Duvenage to also oppose Mr Alli’s vaulting ambitions to impose e-tolling.  Wayne formed the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) to hold the South African Government accountable to its citizens.  The emergent story of OUTA is thus woven into His Story to create a rich and intriguing tapestry, which pushes outward to connect a collective Re-membering, Re-visioning and Re-claiming, true to the ancient Biblical promise of Justice.