Land bat­tle nears end

Vast E Cape claim still dis­puted in court

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - LOUISE CARTER and ROB KNOWLES

This model was ac­cepted by all three with the ex­cep­tion that the AmaZizi claim graz­ing rights

PORT Al­fred Mag­is­trate’s Court is the venue for one of the big­gest land claims in the Eastern Cape, which in­volves a dis­pu­ta­tion of at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing sev­eral groups with claims to the land from the Fish River and farms fur­ther in­land.

The dis­pute, which has been on­go­ing for the last 17 years, in­volves the AmaZizi, Tharfield and Prud­hoe peo­ples. It also in­volves at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the Fish River Sun.

The case is be­ing heard by a panel of judges and pre­sid­ing judge Yas­mine Meer is at­tempt­ing to speed up pro­ceed­ings, which be­gan on Tues­day, in order to put an end to the dis­pute which has its ori­gins in the 19th-cen­tury Bor­der Wars.

There was no official in­ter­preter avail­able in court on ei­ther Tues­day or yes­ter­day, but Tues­day’s pro­ceed­ings utilised the ser­vices of a mem­ber of the gallery.

Yes­ter­day, Meer said the com­plainants should have brought in­ter­preters but that pro­ceed­ings would not be held up and would con­tinue.

The story in­volves the Xhosa peo­ples who oc­cu­pied the land east of the Great Fish River, and the Bri­tish who were fight­ing to claim it.

Dur­ing the Bor­der Wars peo­ple es­caped the tyranny of Shaka Zulu and the AmaZizi peo­ples trav­elled south­ward and across the Great Fish River, join­ing the Bri­tish and, as a con­se­quence, were promised land. How­ever, after the sev­enth Bor­der War (War of the Axe), Sir Harry Smith al­lo­cated and sold the plots of land to white farm­ers, re­lo­cat­ing the AmaZizi fur­ther in­land.

In court, pa­pers were pro­duced, jour­nals were read, notes in­ter­preted, and ex­pert wit­nesses were asked to give their ver­sion of events in order to de­ter­mine who the court should al­lo­cate the land to.

Ru­ral Development Min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti took the stand on Tues­day in a cross-ex­am­i­na­tion ses­sion led by coun­cil rep­re­sent­ing each re­spec­tive party in the set­tle­ment claim.

Nk­winti pro­posed a model of one house­hold, one hectare on a re­spec­tive farm.

De­pend­ing on the ca­pac­ity of the land, a farm is 10 hectares and five fam­i­lies will re­side there, each with one hectare to their own house­hold, and the sur­plus will then be used as com­mon land to fur­ther de­velop agri­cul­tural prac­tices. Each of these house­holds will re­ceive their own ti­tle deeds to the farm. This model was gen­er­ally ac­cepted by all three claimants with the ex­cep­tion that the AmaZizi claim graz­ing rights in land iden­ti­fied by the Prud­hoe peo­ple as right­fully theirs.

Tharfield claimants set a con­di­tion that they have a small Com­mu­nal Property As­so­ci­a­tion pre­sented by ad­vo­cate Ru­dolph Jansen.

In the case of Sun In­ter­na­tional’s Fish River Sun re­sort, Nk­winti dis­closed there were three fam­i­lies with his­tor­i­cal claim to land.

“Al­though the Fish River Sun mat­ter had not been fi­nalised, the Depart­ment of Ru­ral Development and Land Re­form (DRDLR) want to make sure the claims don’t jeop­ar­dise the Fish River Sun op­er­a­tions,” Nk­winti said. “We do not want peo­ple to lose jobs. We will ne­go­ti­ate with the owner. Ideally we would like to see the busi­ness owner col­lab­o­rate with the fam­i­lies.”

He added that the DRDLR in­tend to pur­chase the ho­tel and the land but that he would like to see the cur­rent own­ers con­tinue and pay a form of rental com­pen­sa­tion to the claimants.

Al­though a ver­bal agree­ment to stay, pos­tu­lated in 2009, might have been made, ad­vo­cate for the Fish River Sun Nyoko Mu­van­gua said her client would not con­tinue in operation for longer than an­other six months. She said they would as­sist with the tran­si­tion­ing pe­riod, but that it was the own­ers’ de­sire not to con­tinue. On Wed­nes­day, Pro­fes­sor Ge­off Peires of Wal­ter Sizulu Univer­sity gave ev­i­dence as to the na­ture of the agree­ments made by the var­i­ous par­ties from the ear­li­est avail­able records and, by close of day, sev­eral points re­gard­ing the ori­gins and rights of the land claims were again in dis­pute.

Talk of the Town will keep you up to date with all the de­vel­op­ments on its web page at www.talkof­thetown.co.za, where you will find a more de­tailed ac­count of the court pro­ceed­ings.

Picture: LOUISE CARTER

SEEK­ING RESTITUITION: Ad­vo­cate Al­lan Dod­son con­sults his clients, the Prud­hoe clan, out­side the Port Al­fred Mag­is­trate’s Court on Tues­day

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