Western Cape land claimants appeal for legal help

2016-06-14 21:57
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 - A group of elderly Western Cape land claimants say they need a lawyer urgently after the Drakenstein Municipality said it would not release the land they have set their hearts on.

"We need a lawyer but the money is not here," said Patrick Kohli, chairperson of a trust formed by those directly affected and the descendants of people evicted from their original homes in Sakkieskamp, Wellington during apartheid.

After waiting 20 years for the claim to be settled, their act of defiance was a low key DIY sod-turning ceremony last week.

They have opted to find a peaceful solution, but Kohli says now it needs to be taken up a notch, with a lawyer prepared to fight for them in court.

Kohli and over 200 people filed their land claim in October 1996 as restitution for being evicted out of Sakkieskamp as the apartheid government engineered its master plan of separating white and black people.

Private developers

After the group filed the claim, they were told that the Sakkieskamp land was not available as it had been developed. They were asked to find an alternative and settled on "Farm 736" outside Klapmuts.

But, situated next to the busy N1 national road and near an off-ramp, the land had also grabbed the attention of private developers.

Kohli said things were looking promising, and he has a mound of courteous letters between the Land Claims Commission and the Drakenstein Municipality, which owns the land, to prove it.

But as soon as a container company expressed interest in the property, things went awry.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform said the land belongs to the Drakenstein Municipality.

The commission had never received a Land Release Agreement from them for the land.
This is because the municipality believed it would have greater "strategic value for the municipality in terms of economic development".

No final decision

"The Council is therefore not prepared to release portions of the property for restitution purposes but is willing to consider alternative options to address the matter," the department said in an email.

The Land Claims Commission is waiting to hear from the Drakenstein Municipality on possible alternatives, and is committed to supporting the finalisation of claims.

Drakenstein Acting Municipal Manager Jacques Carstens said there was no final decision on allocation parts of Farm 736 as an alternative to Sakkieskamp because the municipality had to first see if it suited the claimants' needs.

The assessment found that there was no water connection so it would not be suitable for farming. There was no housing infrastructure either.

"For that reason the municipality is currently considering the identification of alternative land for restitution," said Carstens. But he stressed that the allocation of land and the settlement of claims is not up to the Drakenstein Municipality. It plays an important role in helping the Land Claims Commission identify suitable land, but it does not communicate directly with claimants. They should contact the commission for more information, he said.

"We need a lawyer," said Kohli in response to that advice.

Read more on:    cape town  |  land claims

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