Cape family’s land claim shock
Cape Town - A Cape Town family fears that almost 20 years after lodging their land claim, their hopes of returning to Claremont – from where they were forced in the mid-1960s after it was declared a white area – may end up being dashed.
They were recently informed, on enquiry, by the regional Land Claims Commission, that a valuer had found they had received “just and equitable compensation” at the time they were forced to sell.
According to the valuer’s findings, the value of the property at the time of the dispossession was R7 146. The family had received R7 500, meaning they had been “overcompensated” by R354.
The family now wants the matter to be reconsidered, taking into consideration all the circumstances of their forced removal.
The commission, however, said the family’s claim had not been rejected and that they were still in the process of negotiation.
Soelaylah Hassan, whose father Achmat lodged the claim in 1995 on behalf of his family and his sister Amina Salie’s family, who lived next door, said the valuer’s findings came as an unexpected blow as they had been under the impression that everything was on track.
The family also questioned how it could be found that they had received just and equitable compensation considering the racially discriminatory laws and practices at the time.
“They can’t tell us it was fair because it wasn’t fair… We were forcefully removed,” said Hassan’s cousin Mogamat Salie. “We were chucked out, so whatever price they gave us those years is irrelevant.”
According to Vuyani Nkasayi, spokesman of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in the Western Cape, 546 claims in the province had so far been rejected – for various reasons – in terms of the old land claims process.
Of this figure, 14 were rejected on the basis that the claimant had received “just and equitable compensation” when they were forced to sell.
In an interview with the Cape Times, regional Land Claims commissioner Michael Worsnip stressed that the commission was constrained by the limits of the law.
David Smit, the regional commission’s operational management director, said they were bound by section 2 of the Restitution Act, which relates to just and equitable compensation. Where such compensation had been received at the time of dispossession, there was “technically no claim”, he said.
Worsnip said that valuations were done at market value – what the property would have been worth without the pressure of people being forced out of their homes.
“It’s not a reduced value we’re talking about. It’s the actual value of the property at the time of dispossession,” he said. “If compensation was paid at that value or more there’s no claim and neither us, nor the Land Claims Court or anybody else, can change that. That’s the way it is.”
Hassan, however, said that this was not a fair approach because the families had no choice but to sell out of fear of the apartheid regime expropriating their property at half the value, as threatened.
The valuer’s findings with regard to the Hassan and Salie claim relate to two of four semi-detached houses the family owned in Mark Road, Claremont. Hassan said her father claimed for two erven, each with two semi-detached houses on it. But she and Salie said they were of the understanding that the claim for the other two semi-detached houses fell away because these had been left to two of her aunts (sisters of her father) who did not have children to carry on the claim as beneficiaries.
The status of the claim for these two houses, however, is unclear. In a last will and testament, one of the aunts, Hajira Hassan, bequeathed her share of the Claremont land claim – two cottages – to her nephew, Mogamat Salie.
When asked about the status of the other claim in follow-up questions by the Cape Times, Nkasayi said they could not discuss the merits of it with the media because the information between the claimants and the office of the commission was treated confidentially. Hassan, who fondly told of her memories of the spirit of the community, said she didn’t believe the family, which also owned businesses in the area, would ever have moved out of Claremont had it not been for the Group Areas Act.
As part of the claim process, the family opted for alternative land in Claremont at a development project in Bowwood Road.
“You can’t even measure the pain and trauma we experienced with the move,” she said.
Smit said when it came to compensation for the pain and suffering of claimants, this was something only the Land Claims Court could determine, not the commission.
The family, he said, could now meet the commission to discuss and raise their concerns over the valuer’s report. They would also have an opportunity to commission their own valuer if they wished to.
Hassan also expressed disappointment in how the family came to learn that there were issues with their claim, as well as that this had not been picked up earlier.
She had been the one to make contact with the commission after noticing their names were no longer on the list of Bowwood claimants at a beneficiary trust meeting in August.
Her father was “so passionate about Claremont”, she said, and had attended every committee meeting for many years until his death in April last year.
Patrick Thembani, a project co-ordinator for the regional commission, said the family was not cited on the list of Bowwood development claim-ants because this list related only to compliant claims that had already been settled. The Hassan and Salie claim was still being dealt with.
He said the family was to be informed when they had had sight of the valuer’s report.
Mogamad Esau, chairman of the Claremont Beneficiary Trust, said they supported the family and would take up the issue if needs be, but were also waiting to see if the commission validated the claim.