Land

2018-06-21 06:00

COMMUNITY members from the Elambini community have lost a long-fought court battle to claim land they alleged was stolen from their forefathers by white men over a 100 years ago.

The land in question covers a 1380ha radius and includes 30 sugar cane farms as well as popular conservation centre, Crocworld.

Land Claims Court Acting Judge President Yasmin Meer dismissed the case recently due to insufficient evidence to back the claimants demands.

According to previous reports, Meer ruled that no evidence existed to prove the existence of a community living in the area at the time of the claim.

“According to the commission, the community resided on the land by virtue of historical right of occupation. The claimants said, prior to the arrival of white people, their forefathers had exclusive occupation under the authority of a chief.

The white people came, surveyed and registered titles to the claimed land. Customary rights were reduced to those of labour tenants and farm labourers.

If they refused to work, they were forced to relocate to black townships,” reportedly said Judge Meer.

However, the defence in the case said no evidence was available to prove the existence of a community at the time of the alleged dispossession.

She said the claimants alleged that their families were dispossessed off their land between 1914 and 1940, however, the current occupants of the land the Crookes family said the land was under sugar cane farming long before 1913, the legislated earliest cut-off date for claims.

Moreover, when the judge visited the area with the claimants in order for them to pin point whereabout exactly their family had lived, the claimants failed to do so with others pointing at areas outside the land in question.

During court proceedings community members also rejected a settlement offer, despite the best efforts of the landowners and the State defendants to broker a settlement.


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They also reportedly rejected the last offer of 100ha which the parties made known to the court, despite the court repeatedly warning them of the risk of walking away empty-handed if they did not prove their case.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform as well as the Regional Land Claims Commission will incur the costs of court proceedings, while community members are to pay for the many adjournments during court proceedings. “It is disquieting that the claimants, who were legally represented and, significantly, at the State’s expense, throughout these proceedings, could have pursued and persisted with a community claim without adducing a shred of evidence to prove that they derived their possession and use of the land from common rules,” said Judge Meer.

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