Sakkieskamp land claimants want answers

2016-06-10 18:56
Patrick Kohli leads a sod turning ceremony in land he and a group of other people say is theirs (Jenni Evans, News24)

Patrick Kohli leads a sod turning ceremony in land he and a group of other people say is theirs (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Twenty years - that is how long a group of Western Cape elderly people have been waiting for their land claim to be finalised.

And now they are taking matters into their own hands. They say they have been allocated a piece of land, and promises and assurances have been made, but after 20 years, they still do not have their title deeds.

As a symbol of their decision to move their lives forward and begin planning for life on the land, they decided to hold their own sod-turning ceremony on the land in Klapmuts, between Cape Town and Paarl.

Driving slowly along a heavily corrugated dust road that crosses the N1 past Klapmuts this week, the group stopped and scrambled down a sandy embankment. An old woman with a walking frame following the younger people was among them.

And there it was, their promised land - an old orange farm filled with dry trees and scrub.

Waving a hand over the vast expanse, Patrick Kohli said it was all supposed to be theirs, but something was not right. He is a member of the trust for the claimants.

A relatively new water treatment plant on the other side of the bridge was constructed on ''their'' land without consulting them first, he said.

Without the usual tent and tea trimmings of ceremonies such as these, the group gathered around in a semi-circle, holding fists full of soil they had scooped out of the ground.

Kohli dug an old shovel into the soil and turned it over. With a short prayer, their own sod-turning ceremony was over.

Sakkieskamp

The group had once lived in a place called Sakkieskamp in Wellington with their fathers and mothers.

In 1972, they were “deported” to the so-called independent states of Transkei and Ciskei, in line with the apartheid government's policy of separate development between races. The “lucky ones” were moved to Mbekweni, on the outskirts of Paarl. 

Bursting into tears, 70-year-old Patrick Nofemele recalled what it was like to be evicted.

“It is very painful for me,” said Nofemele, as sounds of sympathy went up around him. He was forced to move to Dimbaza, near King William's Town in the Eastern Cape.

In his first week there his first-born child died. He defied authorities by moving back to the Western Cape, settling in Mbekweni.

Through tears, Nofemele said that on his return to Mbekweni, there were attempts to arrest him for his anti-apartheid activities. His job had already been taken, and so he was unemployed for a few years before finding work again.

Still waiting

Kohli said they submitted their claim on 26 October 1996, in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, and were still waiting. This act is intended to ensure land is returned to its true owners, or to find them an alternate piece of land, in recognition of the devastating dispossession that occurred when the apartheid government separated blacks and whites.

A second round of claims was running at present. The Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights decided to go on a roadshow this year to talk to people about outstanding land claims, and to help them lodge new ones.

It said in April that as at December 31, 2015, the commission had settled 98% of all the claims lodged by December 31, 1998. A whopping 7 584 were still outstanding.

Demands for faster land reform are growing in South Africa. The land expropriation bill was passed by Parliament before it went into recess. It would become one of many laws intended to ensure redress for victims of land dispossession. 

Progress grinds to a halt

In the meantime, people like Kohli were still plodding along with their claims.

Kohli said that at first, because Sakkieskamp had been built up again by the time they lodged their claim, the commission asked them to identify a suitable piece of land as an alternative.

They found and chose Erf 736 in Klapmuts.

“We went through all the processes. And on 3 September, 2003 there was an agreement that the land would be handed to us.”

In 2005, there was further confirmation that the land would be theirs, said Kohli, pulling document after document out of a file to prove himself.

People standing around Kohli pointed to their parents' names on a typed list of residents who had lived in Sakkieskamp - many born in 1900.

There had been problems with the claim over the years, due to council changes and demarcations.

Kohli said the first inkling that something was wrong came when a private company expressed interest in the land, situated next to a national highway. From there, they just did not make progress anymore.

Part of the problem, said Andile Thumana, of the Kingdom Change Agents Church, was that the group was not famous, noisy, or well known. Thumana has been helping to drum up awareness of the group's plight.

“They are the little people, and they are being ignored,” he said.

No water or infrastructure

News24 asked the Drakenstein Municipality, the council the land fell under, why there was a delay. Acting municipal manager Jacques Carstens provided some insight into what the group was up against. 

He said the commission had identified portions of farm 736 for possible restitution to some of the claimants in the original claim.

There was no final decision due to the municipality undertaking an assessment to determine the suitability of the land for the claimants' needs.

“The subsequent assessment confirmed that the land has no water connection and it would therefore not be suitable for farming as farming would not be sustainable and costly.

“The provision of infrastructure for housing is also not available and will be costly to establish and take a lot of time to implement. For that reason the municipality is currently considering the identification of alternative land for restitution.”

In the meantime, Thumana hoped that a fired-up firm of attorneys would take their case to court for a review, because the claimants themselves could not afford the legal fees.

They want Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti to look into the matter.

Comment from Nkwinti's office was not immediately available.

 

Read more on:    cape town  |  land

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