Cape Times

Ebenhaeser land claimants ‘frustrated, poor’

- Nicola Daniels

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.

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