'Pondo link makes Wild Coast land ours'

By Time of article published Jan 7, 2007

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By Chris Makhaye

Descendants of a Scottish settler, who married a Pondo princess, are claiming that the Wild Coast Sun land belongs to them.

The area between the Umzamba and Mthavuna rivers on which the Wild Coast Sun resort is built is subject to several claims.

Among others, the Mzamba community - who claim to have been forcibly removed to make way for the resort in the late 1970s - lodged a land restitution claim with the Eastern Cape Land Claims Commission.

Sun International, which owns the Wild Coast Sun Casino and Resort, has rights to lease the land until 2079.

Now a committee representing the mixed-race Smith clan are disputing all other claims to the land and say it is theirs.

They are descendants of John Gordon Smith, a settler born in Scotland and who later married the daughter of a Pondo chief, Faku Sigcawu.

In 1866, the Smiths claim, Chief Sigcawu gave the land to his son-in-law, who farmed the land and raised cattle.

He paid taxes for the land until he died in September 1910. His descendants continued to pay taxes until the 1950s.

The Smiths claim that they lodged a land claim with the Eastern Cape Land Commission before the 1998 land claim deadline, but have heard nothing from the commission.

"We have documentation to prove that the land belongs to us," said Grace Smith-Smale. "Others may have settled there, but they did not own the land."

The Eastern Cape's Land Commission confirmed a claim had been made by the Smiths .

Smith-Smale said the descendants are scattered all over the country, but regard the land on which the resort is built as their ancestral home.

Neil Smith said they had formed a committee to ensure their claim was taken into account when the final decision was made.

"We have heard there are other land claims being considered. We have a legitimate claim to the land," he said.

He said their committee would take legal action if the issue was resolved without the Smiths' involvement.

The resort is built on an unspolit beach in 750ha of natural bush between Umtavuna and Mzamba, with a beautiful view of the Indian Ocean.

It was built in the 1980s after then Transkei premier George Matanzima made concessions to Sol Kerzner for the casino.

People were forced to move from their homes when the builders moved on to the site.

Kerzner got a lease for the Wild Coast Sun that was initially to run until 2029, but was extended in 1992 to 2079.

It later transpired that Matanzima was paid R2 million by Kerzner.

In 1994, people who were removed formed the Umgungundlovu Land Claim Committee to claim the 640ha Wild Coast Sun land. Their claim was gazetted in 1996.

The Smiths say these people have no right to the land.

Zodide Zonyane, the Eastern Cape's Land Commission's project manager for the Wild Coast claim, confirmed the land claim by the Smiths.

"It is true that a claim by Umgungundlovu is at an advanced stage. Among the claimant community there are Smith family members who were directly affected by the dispossession."

Umgungundlovu Land Claim Committee's Nokwanda Langaza said the Mzamba community had waited more than 12 years.

"It was supposed to be finalised before the end of last year. Now we expect it to be settled in the next few weeks."

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