No rul­ing yet

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

THE vast land claim case which played out in the Port Al­fred Mag­is­trate’s Court in May and is re­spon­si­ble for Sun In­ter­na­tional’s ex­trac­tion from Fish River Sun, is again in ses­sion for the re­main­der of the week af­ter a re­cess of six months.

Chief Judge Yas­mine Meer ex­pressed her frus­tra­tion at the en­tourage of ad­vo­cates and at­tor­neys who ne­glected to file pre-trial re­ports – due last month – to the court.

New de­fen­dants, who re­vealed their land por­tions were also in­cluded in the vast land claim, emerged on Mon­day.

Ear­lier in May, the own­ers of seven farms and 20 small­hold­ings west of the dis­puted Fish River land claim, in­clud­ing sec­tions of the mu­nic­i­pal-owned Kap River Na­ture Re­serve, only dis­cov­ered while court was ac­tive that their land is in­cluded in the mas­sive land claim case

The case is one of the big­gest land claims in the Eastern Cape, and in­volves an ar­ray 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, the Tharfield and the Prud­hoe peo­ples, as well as at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the Fish River Sun who are ar­gu­ing their dis­putes on claimed land which has its ori­gins in the 19th-cen­tury Bor­der Wars.

A num­ber of farms are be­ing con­tested be­tween the AmaZizi and the Prud­hoe.

Ear­lier this year, an un­named source who rep­re­sented Sun In­ter­na­tional’s in­ter­est with re­gards to Fish River Sun said the whole case had be­come a law show.

“Two com­mu­ni­ties’ in­abil­ity to take the deal on the ta­ble re­sulted in Fish River Sun clos­ing,” said the source. “Le­gal coun­sel has failed them.”

Ad­vo­cate Viwe Not­she said the claim on Fish River west was with­drawn but the “claimant main­tains its claim of re­quital re­dress”.

In court on Mon­day was Chief Land Claims Com­mis­sioner from the Depart­ment of Land Re­form and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Nom­fundo Go­bodo, as well as Isaac Peter from the depart­ment. The court heard the tes­ti­mony of wit­ness Petrus Ja­cobus Jonas, a re­gional town plan­ner reg­is­tered with the SA coun­cil, who tes­ti­fied a fea­si­bil­ity re­port eval­u­at­ing restora­tion of the claimed land.

Part of Jonas’s re­search was to iden­tify fac­tors which needed to be taken into ac­count when con­sid­er­ing restora­tion com­pen­sa­tion. The pur­pose of the study is to also re­flect land use, the so­cio-eco­nomic data, cur­rent oc­cu­pa­tion and spa­tial plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Jonas, the cur­rent own­er­ship of the land be­ing claimed are 81% govern­ment owned, 17% pri­vately owned and

2% mu­nic­i­pal.

Jonas il­lus­trated crit­i­cal bio­di­ver­sity (Class 1) ar­eas, the high­est sta­tus in terms of en­vi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity. This in­cluded “red data” species, risk of degra­da­tion, ero­sion and loss of vulnerable species ar­eas, in­clud­ing slopes run­ning into Fish River Val­ley.

Jonas also an­a­lysed the graz­ing ca­pac­ity of the area, soil po­ten­tial in terms of cul­ti­va­tion po­ten­tial and agri­cul­tural ca­pa­bil­ity. The re­search con­cluded that the anal­y­sis started at “Class 3”, medium to low, and in­di­cated not a high-rank­ing area as pro­duc­tion po­ten­tial.

The pop­u­la­tion fig­ures are 14876 which rep­re­sent 4600 house­holds. Jonas’s re­search con­cluded that the agri­cul­tural po­ten­tial is mod­er­ate.

In the very best ar­eas, be­tween 5ha to 7ha will be re­quired to carry one stock unit. In some ar­eas, more hectares of land is re­quired to sus­tain graz­ing per stock unit due to poor graz­ing ca­pac­ity.

The “sec­ond-best” iden­ti­fied ar­eas in­di­cate be­tween 11ha to 13ha per an­i­mal unit is re­quired.

Not­she pointed out that the land ca­pa­bil­ity is less in the AmaZizi claim area and that the land claims by the Prud­hoe peo­ple are su­pe­rior.

“The en­ti­tle­ment is for restora­tion of land and not qual­ity. The claimant is en­ti­tled to land when proved they were forced to leave. You get what you can prove,” Meer said.

More wit­nesses were called to tes­tify on Tues­day, in­clud­ing the last-minute de­fen­dants of prop­erty claims.

Tues­day’s pro­ceed­ings were de­layed from the start­ing time of 10am as counter claims were launched by a num­ber of res­i­dents of prop­er­ties in dis­puted ar­eas.

Fish River Diner and car­a­van park owner Tia Swart took the stand and laid her case that there was no ad­van­tage to cre­at­ing a cul­vert on her prop­erty along­side the car­a­van park to en­able lo­cals to ac­cess the sea, de­spite re­ports that years be­fore Xhosa peo­ples would use a path through her prop­erty to gain ac­cess to the sea.

“There is no path through the prop­erty and never has been since I moved onto the prop­erty 18 years ago,” said Swart, who rec­om­mended that the only vi­able ac­cess to the sea was via the Fish River Sun prop­erty.

Next to take the stand was lo­cal busi­ness­man Ham­bile Misiwe.

His cross ex­am­i­na­tion was more di­rect and it was ini­tially pointed out that Misiwa has a num­ber of busi­nesses in the area in­clud­ing a petrol sta­tion, a bot­tle store and a pub.

It was also pointed out that, although Misiwe pur­chased the prop­erty in 1994, it was sug­gested this was a land grab. Misiwe was also told he was only obliged to move into the prop­erty once trans­fer was fi­nalised.

How­ever, Misiwe told the court that this was cur­rently in the hands of Min­is­ter of Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Land Re­form Gugile Nk­winti, who was or­dered by the high court two years ago to af­fect the trans­fer.

This caused con­ster­na­tion in some quar­ters when his at­tor­neys asked why he was be­ing sub­jected to such an in­ter­ro­ga­tion of his busi­nesses and ac­cused of a land grab when the pre­vi­ous wit­ness had not been asked to ex­plain her busi­ness deal­ings.

The to­tal cost which govern­ment will en­dure when one of the Eastern Cape’s big­gest land claim sagas is fi­nally set­tled, is un­known.

Court pro­ceed­ings con­tinue un­til to­mor­row.

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