How black people lose land again

DISPOSSESSED Carlitos Bensel (70) is one of 210 former farm workers at Rayton Estates near Mbombela, who bought shares worth R3.4 million at the company in 2000. Five years later, most of the workers were dismissed from the farm when they protested about lack of transparency about their shareholding and other issues. Today, they are landless and their future is uncertain. Picture: Sizwe sama Yende
DISPOSSESSED Carlitos Bensel (70) is one of 210 former farm workers at Rayton Estates near Mbombela, who bought shares worth R3.4 million at the company in 2000. Five years later, most of the workers were dismissed from the farm when they protested about lack of transparency about their shareholding and other issues. Today, they are landless and their future is uncertain. Picture: Sizwe sama Yende

According to Peter Delius and William Beinart’s book titled Rights to Land: A Guide To Tenure Upgrading and Restitution in South Africa, individual and family rights were not asserted in land reform projects, leaving beneficiaries vulnerable to eventually losing their land.

It calls for land legislation to be strengthened to assert these rights.

City Press has previously reported on three cases that indicate how black landowners ended up landless again.

In Rayton Estate, 50km outside Mbombela, 210 farm workers who used their Settlement Land Acquisition Grant of R3.4 million to buy a 19.34% stake at Rayton Estates 18 years ago were eventually evicted from the citrus, subtropical and deciduous fruit business.

This happened when they queried why they were not being paid dividends.

The department of rural development and land reform came back to buy the same farm from Rayton Estates for R75 million and leased it, but left the beneficiaries landless again and without jobs.

Infighting among claimants, which appeared to be supported by corrupt department officials, saw Ndlovini Communal Property Association (CPA) beneficiaries of a 235-hectare farm in Mpumalanga, about 25km outside Mbombela, losing a R2.9 million government grant.

Three individuals with connections within the department had the money transferred to their individual bank accounts.

Although the trio was found guilty of theft, fraud and money laundering, the business was already drowning in debt and beneficiaries could lose the land.

The R1 billion Mala Mala land claim is another example of how a powerful clique can sideline other beneficiaries.

Most of Mala Mala’s 960 beneficiaries claim that they were left in the dark about the running of the 13 184ha luxurious private nature reserve in Sabi Sands, on the border of the Kruger National Park.

The disgruntled Nwandlamharhi CPA members have approached the Pretoria High Court to force the rural development minister to intervene and resolve the problems.

The nature reserve generates about R8.4 million a year, and about R2 million as tourism levy.

Land reform projects have failed for various reasons, including the fact that the department injects funds and walks away, leaving beneficiaries squabbling among themselves or being evicted – such as in the RCL Foods case.

Sometimes corrupt departmental officials support certain factions within CPAs and purge the less powerful beneficiaries.

The Mpumalanga spokesperson for the department, Zithini Dlamini, admitted that there were challenges on land reform, especially pertaining to CPAs.

“Some of the land is not used profitably because of social dynamics among CPAs.

“None of our beneficiaries lost the land, but in some instances, the land is not optimally utilised, which does not translate into rural economic transformation.”

She said the department supported CPAs by providing training to their members and committees to enable them to regularise their affairs and comply with legislation.The training covered governance, financial management and administration.

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July 2020

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