THE FIGHT FOR LAND CONTINUES PRUDHOE LAND CLAIM APPEAL TO BE HEARD IN THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL
11 March 2020
Land dispossession is a blight from our country’s history, since colonisation, and exacerbated during apartheid. The failure to fix the system and to realise land rights has been compounded by rampant state corruption and maladministration, which has decimated provincial land-reform budgets, prioritised disingenuous land claims and ushered in the industrial sector’s access to land for profit. The prevailing reality is that the vast majority of poor and lower-income black South Africans continue to be denied access to the right to security of tenure and the right to a sense of self-worth and dignity.
On Wednesday 11 March 2020 the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) will appear in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to oppose an appeal to a Land Claims Court judgment granted in favour of our clients – the Prudhoe Community. In the matter of Mazizini and Others v The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and Others the Land Claims Court awarded restitution of 26 farms to the 300 households that make up the Prudhoe Community, including land on which the Fish River Hotel is located. The Minister and the Mazizini community appealed to a full bench of the Land Claims Court, but their leave to appeal was dismissed on 3 August 2018. The Mazizini Community then petitioned the SCA directly for leave to appeal, which was granted.
Sadly, this case dates back to December 1998, when the Prudhoe Community lodged their claim under the Restitution of Land Rights Act. They claimed the restoration of farms between the Fish and Mpekweni rivers from which they were brutally and forcefully removed by the Ciskei government in the late 1980s, ostensibly to make way for large-scale agricultural development which never materialised. They were dumped on a vacant piece of land called “Prudhoe farm”, and received no compensation from the former Ciskei government nor assistance to rebuild their lives there.
The Mazizini Community that has brought the appeal claimed 85 farms, including the 26 awarded to the Prudhoe. In the Land Claims Court, during the first application for leave to appeal, Barnes JA stated that the Mazizini’s contention that the court erred on certain factual findings was misplaced and there was no prospect that any other court would find differently on the facts. The Land Claims Court also dismissed the contention that farms being claimed with no competing claim had to be awarded to the Mazizini community, finding that they did not meet the requirement of the Restitution of Land Rights Act. The judgment exposed the Land Rights Commission’s unwavering and irrational support for the disingenuous claim of the Mazizini Community.
So far it has taken 22 years for this claim to be determined. 109 of the original 124 heads of households claimants have passed away (many in extreme poverty) without seeing the outcome of their claim. The delays are largely as a result of incompetence by the Restitution for Land Rights Commission: The production of multiple conflicting research reports; a failure to notify affected parties of proceedings; and a dogged insistence that one community’s defective and disingenuous land claim should be allowed to piggy back on a neighbouring communities valid land claim have meant that the Prudhoe Community remain landless. The LRC have represented the Prudhoe Community since 2010. If the SCA dismisses the appeal, the Prudhoe Community’s 1500 members should soon have land.
NOTE: For more information please contact:
Mr Gladman Tom (Chairperson of Prudhoe Community Land Committee) 071 021 7288 or 073 941 8948
Cameron McConnachie (Attorney: Makhanda regional office) firstname.lastname@example.org 0833878738
The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable.
Members of the Prudhoe Community in the Land Claims Court – November 2017
Prudhoe Community Members and their lawyers outside the Land Claims Court in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape – 3 November 2017