6 August 2018 – The South African government recently sought permission to appeal a court decision handed down in April of 2018, which returned 26 farms between the Fish and Mpekweni Rivers, which had been taken from 100 families during the era of forced removals under apartheid. The LRC, which represented this community of families, opposed the government’s application.
The families, known as the Prudhoe Community, had been removed from their farms during the late 1980’s, ostensibly to make way for large-scale agricultural development. The Ciskei government moved them to the Prudhoe Farm, where they were given a vacant piece of land, receiving no compensation for the land they had lost and no assistance to rebuild their lives on the farm. The land from which they had been forcibly removed remained largely unused, except for grazing.
The Prudhoe Community lodged a claim in December of 1998 under the Restitution of Land Rights Act, claiming restoration of the farms from which they had been forcibly removed. In April of 2018, the Land Claims Court awarded restitution of the 26 farms, including the land on which the Fish River Sun Hotel is located, to the community.
The Prudhoe Community’s claim was contested by the South African Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, as well as the Mazizini Community, which claimed 85 farms, including those 26 farms claimed by the Prudhoe Community. The Land Claims Court dismissed their application to appeal the earlier court decision on August 3, 2018. The Mazizini Community contended that the Court had erred on certain factual findings, but the Court determined that no other court would find differently on the facts. The judge also found that the claims of the Mazizini Community did not meet the threshold requirements of the Restitution of Land Rights Act.
The LRC noted its disappointment in the South African government’s opposition to a successful claimant community of more than 1,000 people, particularly during this time when the South African government claims that land reform and returning land to communities are government priorities. The LRC further noted that the government had taken twenty years to determine the claim. During this time, 109 of the original 124 heads of household died in poverty without seeing the successful outcome of their claim, the first step in the restoration of dignity and livelihoods lost during these unlawful, forced removals under apartheid.