President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the Gauteng land restitution ceremony at the Moretele Recreation Park in Mamelodi. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Tshwane – The South African government is working tirelessly to ensure that land claims by communities forcefully removed from their property as a result of apartheid-era legislation are settled swiftly and the claimants receive compensation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.

Ramaphosa made the remarks in Pretoria on Saturday while officiating at a land restitution ceremony which marked successful claims by 10 Gauteng communities who had now been presented with title deeds and financial compensation.

“We are today celebrating the settlement of 10 land claims in Gauteng that were lodged before 31 December 1998. Many of our people have waited for far too long for this process of land restitution and compensation to be completed. We appreciate the patience and the perseverance of claimants, but recognise that much more needs to be done and with greater urgency,” said Ramaphosa.

“Today is part of a process that will cover the length and breadth of this country. We are settling land claims, returning the land to those communities and families from whom it was taken, and thereby providing the restitution that our Constitution requires,” he said.

The land claims totalling R203 million were facilitated by the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights to the benefit of communities in the cities of Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Ekurhuleni.

Ramaphosa said his government’s departments and agencies were trying to ensure that more outstanding claims were addressed speedily.

“Today, we are handing over the title deed to the Klipkop-Nanduna Communal Property Association on behalf of the descendants of the Mahlangu and Malobola families. The ancestors of these families held informal or unregistered rights to the property in question and a painstaking process was followed to verify their claims. It was found that the Malobola family occupied the land in question from the 1800s to 1967 and the Mahlangu family from 1936 to 1960,” he said. 

“The painful stories of these two families echo across the country in a thousand different places, where people were deprived of their birthright, their land, and their livelihoods. The Malobola family lived on the farm known as Klipklop from the 1800s.”

Ramaphosa said a critical piece of evidence proving the legitimacy of the claimants’ occupation of the land and their forceful removal was “a letter written by the attorneys of a Mr Zwick, which stated that all 'bantu' people at Klipkoppies were occupying the farm illegally”. 

He said the communities were given a mere 14 days to remove their livestock from the farm and if they resisted, such would be impounded. 

“The act of returning the land to these families is therefore both symbolic and material. It represents the righting of a grave wrong and provides this community with an opportunity to reap the benefits of a valuable asset,” said Ramaphosa.

In the nine other restitution settlements celebrated on Saturday, the claimants chose to receive financial compensation.  

“In some instances, the claimants had settled elsewhere and are not in a position to start a new settlement. In other cases, the land has been extensively developed as either industrial or residential areas. These are the Dukathole community from Driefontein in Ekurhuleni and the Ebenezer Congregational Church in Johannesburg,” said Ramaphosa.

“The other restitution settlements, all in Tshwane, are for the Mathabe family from Boekenhoutskloof, the Franspoort community, the Msiza family from Hondsrivier, the Kafferskraal community, the Mahlangu and Ntuli families from Tweefontein, and the Rodman community from Vygeboschlaagte.”

The age-old loss of land not only brought about poverty, but also the indignity of living without land in the place of one’s birth, Ramaphosa said.

African News Agency (ANA)