MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Land court restores rights to tenant labourers

Published by MAC on 2006-07-27

Land court restores rights to tenant labourers

by Neels Blom, Agriculture and Land Affairs Editor
Business Day (South Africa)

27th July 2006

IN THE first successful case brought before the Land Claims Court for the restoration of land rights to tenant labourers, the Ga Mawela community yesterday won a ruling that would return ownership of their land to them.

The claim was lodged in October 1998 and validated in a ruling in the Land Claims Court in 2004.

The Ga Mawela community lost ownership of their land in 1871, when the government of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek awarded the land in the Steelpoort area of what is now Limpopo, to one of its officials. The Bakone Ba Mankge, the Pedi clan who had made up the original Ga Mawela community since 1830, then became labour tenants whose rights to remain resident were conditional on their provision of free labour to the new white farm owner.

The community's claim on the land, which became known as the St George farm, was made under government's land reform programme. The Ga Mawela community's claim forms part of a larger land claim project which includes a second portion, Richmond farm, of the community's original land.

They could not, however, claim for the restoration of ownership because the Restitution of Land Rights Act does not permit land claims in respect of dispossession that occurred before the promulgation of the 1913 Land Act. Instead, they lodged their claim based on their rights as labour tenants.

The validity of the claim was challenged by the owner in 2004 but the subsequent owner and respondent in the matter, Rustenburg Platinum, which acquired the farm to gain access to the water for use in platinum mining, did not oppose the claim. Anglo Platinum owns the mineral rights in most of the district.

For yesterday's motion to succeed, the Ga Mawela community was ordered in 2004 to formulate a plan for the development of the farm. It also had to provide proof of community participation in the planning, its commitment to the plan and show that it was economically feasible to develop the farm.
It also had to show that its activities would not affect the rights of the owner of the mineral rights. The court ordered the land affairs department to help the community create a business plan and feasibility report.

At yesterday's hearing, the community submitted that the farm would be permanently inhabited by nine households only, who would conduct limited stock and cultivation farming.

Durkje Gilfillan of the Legal Resources Centre, which helped the community with its claim, acknowledged yesterday that an eight-year process was a long time for people to remain in poverty, but said that it was more important to "make haste slowly" to ensure community participation and agreement from all parties, including government.

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