Tensions rise over Richtersveld

2009-10-02 21:38

Cape Town - Temperatures in the Richtersveld community, which won a multi-million rand land claim in 2007, are rising - and not just because summer is on its way.

Some disgruntled residents claim that community leaders are guilty of mismanagement, and say they have even sent a petition to President Jacob Zuma.

And two weeks ago a group of residents won an interim High Court interdict forcing postponement of the annual meeting of the Richtersveld Sida! Hub Communal Property Association (CPA).

The CPA is the community body that fought the land claim, and that is now overseeing the implementation of the historic settlement.

However CPA chairperson Willem Diergaardt on Friday rejected claims of irregularities, and questioned the motives of those making them.

"They are troublemakers and sharks," he said.

Membership audit


He also said the committee intended to oppose the interdict when it came back to court in Kimberley on November 6.

The application was brought by Kuboes resident Niklaas Philips and eight other people, backed by what Philips said were signatures from another 350.

In it, Philips said he and other members of the CPA had for some time been dissatisfied with the way its committee had been running the association's affairs.

In 2008 they had asked for a membership audit, which had not been done.

Over 50 people's names had been illegally removed from the list of members of the CPA, and were no longer receiving dividends from the CPA's commercial interests.

Philips also said he had never been given notice of the AGM planned for September 18 at Alexander Bay.

The only notice some of his fellow applicants were aware of was undated notices stuck up at municipal offices.

No proper transport had been arranged for the 2 000 members, who live in settlements across the Richtersveld, to go to Alexander Bay for the meeting.

"All the previous AGMs were held in one of the four Richtersveld towns and on week-ends.

"We can only conclude that the intention was to have as few members attend as possible, which is contrary to the good faith [that] the committee have to conduct the affairs of the CPA with."

Petition

In May this year some residents drew up a petition calling for the resignation of the CPA committee, claiming they were being paid salaries but that the community was getting poorer.

However Diergaardt said on Friday that the only person on the CPA committee who was getting a salary was its administrative secretary Carmen Cloete.

He denied that there had been anything irregular in the way notice of the AGM was given, and said the reason it had been held in Alexander Bay was simply that the town was part of the land the community had won in the Land Claims Court.

It would not have been the first community meeting to be called there, he said.

Diergaardt said there had been a proper audit of members of the CPA.

'They're a bit confused'

Fewer than 20 names had been removed from the membership list, and the committee had held three public workshops earlier this year to discuss the reasons for the removal, and possible reinstatement.

He said much of the opposition to the CPA committee came from a so-called Nama Council, which he said was set up without any constitution, backed by commercial interests in Cape Town, and which was seeking to take over the community's assets.

"They're a bit confused," he said.

The community's finances, he said, were "better than any bank in South Africa", and were in good hands.

After a decade of legal battles, the community in 2007 won R190 million in reparations, and the restoration of 194 600 hectares of land including a diamond-bearing coastal strip that had for some 80 years been mined by the state.

The ruling also provided for the handover of various other state assets, including the mining town of Alexander Bay.
 

- SAPA

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