R137m in biggest EC land claim

THE first payout of the Eastern Cape’s biggest land claim, amounting to more than R390-million, is being paid to thousands of Tarkastad residents.

The payout was made by the Rural Development and Agrarian Reform Department.

A number of families living in villages like Thornhill, Mitford, Bacle’s Farm, Tendergate, Tembalethu, Rocklands, Zola, Phakamisa, Merino Walk and Ikhwezi, were removed from 23 villages in Herschel and Sterkspruit between 1975 and 1976.

The resettlement was made under laws of the time such as the Citizenship Act of 1970, which saw many people from across the country moved to new areas.

One beneficiary of the land claim, 68-year-old William Kale, was all smiles when the department handed him a R128240 cheque yesterday.

Kale was one of more than 3000 villagers from Ntabethemba area, benefiting from compensation.

Speaking to the Dispatch yesterday, Kale said the money would change his family’s lives.

“The money we are getting will play its part in our lives in this poor Eastern Cape but it won’t bring back the lives of hundreds of children we lost when we were dumped here. We are still in pain but the government today is playing its role,” said Kale.

More than 5000 residents from 11 villages in the area attended yesterday’s event.

A total of 3043 households are to benefit from the R390235193 payout.

The Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Pam Tshwete, amaRharhabe Queen Noloyiso Sandile and Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima were among the dignitaries who attended the event.

Tshwete was the keynote speaker. “This is your money,” she said.

“There is no way that we can interfere and say this is how you should use it – but people must not drink the money in shebeens and then blame government as if we’ve done nothing,” said Tshwete.

“This is the biggest claim to be paid in the province. People need to use it wisely and invest it for their children’s futures.”

Tshwete said the Eastern Cape had 17800 claims and most of them had already been settled.

“We are happy to say that only 1200 are left to be finalised. This claim is unique as the people here were so disciplined as they waited for government to finalise our assessments,” Tshwete said.

“This was a complex claim because of its size and we had to divide the claim into two phases.

“Today we celebrate what you have patiently waited for all these years.”

In the first phase, R137-million will be paid out while the second phase will be paid next year as the department is busy finalising verification of the claimants.

Matanzima said: “Traditional leaders need to assist this community to succeed with what they’ve got from government.”

Chief Daniel Kontsiwe said hundreds of children died when they were moved to the new area.

“This government needs to come back after this to tell us what they are going to do with the graves of our loved ones that we left behind in those areas.”

Tshwete said they were aware of that. “We know that the family left graves of their family members behind and we feel their pain,” she said. — bonganif@dispatch.co.za

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