Ebenhaeser land claimants ‘frustrated, poor’
BENEFICIARIES of the Western Cape’s largest rural land claim remain in poverty, 20 years after lodging their claim.
The community of Ebenhaeser, 40km from Vredendal and four hours outside Cape Town, lost their fertile land in 1926.
After lodging a claim in 1996, a settlement of R350 million was reached in 2014.
The funds were earmarked for repurchasing and developing the land.
Nine land parcels have been bought from private owners, seven of which were transferred to the Ebenhaeser Community Property Association, and 260 people over the age of 60 have received R7 500 each.
A development trust had been established to run the farms commercially, which would distribute dividends once it turned a profit. The trust has received R4m. William Fortuin, chairperson for the community association, said: “People are frustrated, poor, hungry and unemployed because this has been a slow process.
“Tension and conflict continue to rise because people want to see development taking place at a faster pace.”
An issue of 22 landowners who are unwilling to sell was raised in a briefing at the Western Cape Legislature yesterday.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, as well as the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights, discussed the Ebenhaeser claim with the Western Cape Legislature’s committee on economic opportunities, tourism, and agriculture.
Members of the community association and the development trust attended.
Nomfundo Gobodo, the land claims commissioner, said: “The unwilling sellers have gone to court in terms of the Restitution Act; in terms of the act it is within their right to do that.
“So we cannot settle the claim until court proceedings are finalised.”
Mervin Doralingo, chairperson of the development trust, said: “When farmers heard they are getting money, their input in terms of mentorship stopped.
“They have since harvested their first supply of grapes, but it was not profitable because they did not make their quota.”
The next R10m for development would be given to the community, upon receiving the financial reports of the funds already received, and a business plan.
Trust member Mark Manuel said the vineyards in Ebenhaeser were in poor shape when buyers received it.
“Of 179 vineyards, 62 have to be replaced,” Manuel said.
There are 1 840 beneficiaries, and the settlement implementation plan will continue until 2020.