Hundreds trespass on farm to ‘claim their land’

KAAPMUIDEN – Not even a court order deterred community members from trespassing onto the Siyathuthuka Farm and staking their claim last week. The farm forms part of an RCL Foods initiative where small-scale farmers are being developed into medium-scale growers on the land.

The group, mostly from Matsulu, is reportedly beneficiaries of a land claim under the name of Chief Lomshiyo. According to members, it was lodged in 1996 and they are unhappy because nothing has come of it, despite addressing numerous complaints to authorities.

Just more than 100 people occupied the farm last Thursday, visiting their ancestors’ graves in the mountains.
The situation deteriorated on Friday, when more than 400 locals streamed through the gates. Police and security personnel were on site to contain them, but the number of vehicles parked around the gates and at the old police station caused slight traffic delays.

Siyathuthuka is a medium-scale grower land-reform project that RCL Foods initiated in support of government programmes. In 2003, seven top small-scale farmers in Nkomazi were identified to be developed into medium-scale growers on the land and RCL has provided extensive technical and financial support to the project since then.

Upon enquiry, it stated that “at the time of developing the property, no indication was given that the land was under claim.

“Rural development released grants to purchase the land. To date, RCL Foods has not received any formal notification but has been made aware of the land claim through Government Gazette. There has been no formal discussions with any parties regarding the settlement options of the land claim.”

RCL obtained a court order to prevent illegal occupation of the property last Friday and by Tuesday afternoon were waiting for the Sheriff to execute the order.

Lawyers from Du Toit-Smuts & Mathews Phosa presented the group’s representatives with the court order on Friday and explained what it meant. Many left and the situation calmed down, but over the weekend people trespassed once again, some visibly claiming pieces of land for themselves with markers.

On Sunday the group reportedly again visited grave sites on the farm belonging to their ancestors and held a memorial service. Police and personnel of Securicon Lowveld continued to monitor the situation on Monday and Tuesday, as community members continued to trespass.

Mr Cyril Ripinga, spokesman for the Nkomazi Local Municipality, confirmed that the land falls under the municipality and that they are aware of the issue. He stated that they were investigating how far the claim was in the process.

Retha Nel

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