A Worcester community – including a 99-year-old woman – are desperate to have their land claims paid out more than ten years after the claims were first lodged.
But with some of the original claimants from Victoria Park in Worcester already dead without having received compensation for land taken from them by the apartheid regime, those remaining look set to see another Christmas go by without money in the bank.
Over the last ten years, the claimants say they have made repeated approaches to the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights and written without response to Luthuli House to appeal for help.
The claimants – numbering over 100 and whose descendants were originally granted land for assisting the British in the Frontier Wars of the 19th Century -were dispossessed between the 1960s and 1970s. This followed a 1957 decision by the local municipality to terminate their occupation rights in order to build a new township.
Madge van Harte, who has fought an ongoing battle for the claims to be paid out, said following the lodging of the claims in 1998, evaluations had taken place in 2000 to assess the value of land lost.
Van Harte, whose father Meschack Blom (93) is one of the claimants, said it was only in 2007 that 72 of the claimants had been paid out depending on the size of their original plots.
But she said the amounts paid were disputed by claimants because they said they were based on inaccurate plot sizes.
In addition there were still 43 claimants who had not received anything, she said.
Van Harte said out of the 135 original claimants, 20 had died since 1998, and there were currently 39 claimants over 70 years of age.
Claimants, she said, were “the poorest of the poor” and the money would help them get adequate medical care and buy food and clothes.
“We see and hear on the TV that they [government] don’t have money. But they could just be honest with us and let us know when we will get money. You can’t just make empty promises.”
Following enquiries in 2008, van Harte was told in a letter from Western Cape Land Claims commissioner Beverley Jansen that payment to elderly claimants would be processed in 2009, but with little time left before the end of the year she fears they will not receive anything.
Jansen, who said of the 17,000 claims in the Western Cape, only 800 remained unsettled, said they were currently experiencing cash flow problems and were waiting for the new financial year.
“Unfortunately everyone wants to be paid before Christmas. We have received a sum, but that can only go so far,” she said.
She said paying out money was “not as simple as writing out a cheque” as there were “strict and rigid procedures” that had to be followed.
She said the death of some claimants was “unfortunate”, but that in many cases when people lodged claims they had already been elderly.
Mariam Savahl, speaking on behalf of Rachel Africa (99) who raised her, said Africa wanted the claim finalised so she could get the money before she died.
“She has put so much in and I want her to see the reward,” said Savahl.
She said claimants could not understand why the money had not been paid out.
“There are people that have died,” she said, adding that the money would make a “big difference” to Africa, who survived on an old age grant.
- West Cape News