Land battle nears end
Vast E Cape claim still disputed in court
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.
SEEKING RESTITUITION: Advocate Allan Dodson consults his clients, the Prudhoe clan, outside the Port Alfred Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday