Deemed the biggest land claim in the Western Cape, the settlement reached in 2014 between the residents of Ebenhaeser and the Land Reform Department to return land forcibly taken during displacement in 1925 was hailed a success.
Fast-forward three years and the residents, located 40km from Vredendal on the West Coast, say little support from the government and looming legal action challenging their claim to a further 1183 hectares has divided the farming community.
In a briefing to the Western Cape legislature, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights outlined the challenges facing the finalisation of the claims. To date nine land parcels have been bought from willing sellers, of which seven were transferred to the Ebenhaeser Community Property Association, with two others yet to be transferred at a cost of R41m for 372hectares.
Land Claims Commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo said the 21-year-old land claim has yet to be resolved due to the court challenge by 22 farmers. “Through our processes we have validated the claim but they are saying it is only the Land Claims Court that can make a determination.
“And once the matter is in court it is out of the commission’s hands. But what the court has said is that we should try and reach a settlement out of court and we have hearings scheduled for July 17.”
Gobodo said if the negotiations fail, the matter will go to court and a court date is scheduled for the end of November.
But some claimants are starting to question whether the matter will ever be concluded.
For Susana Plaatjies and her family, the long wait for what seemed like a victory three years ago has become a disappointment.
“The processes are taking too long for the liking of some of our people and they are getting frustrated and feel like they would rather be given money than land.
“And with the other farmers going to court, this adds more frustration for people who see this dragging on for years and years to come.
“Yes we got land but the land that is being denied is the best land there is out here. So we are frustrated and a lot of us are losing faith in the system.”
Chairperson of the Ebenhaeser Community Property Association William Fortuin told the committee that people were upset about the slow pace of development.
“There are so many delays and people want to see development at a faster pace and everyone in the community has different interests.
“Looking at their social-economic situation people are starting to ask themselves ‘what is the point of taking extra land, we want the money instead.’
“And our instructions are to retrieve all of the land that was lost as a result of the displacements in 1925 but people are tired of waiting.”