Kingdom to file massive land claim

THE biggest land claim in the Eastern Cape will soon be launched by the AmaRharhabe Royal Council in a claim that includes the whole of the Western Cape.

The multibillion-rand claim would be in collaboration with the Khoi and San people.

Council spokesman Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe said yesterday traditional leaders within the jurisdiction of his council would lodge a claim for land stretching from the western side of the Great Kei River to the Gamtoos River outside Jeffreys Bay.

Speaking at the AmaRharhabe Great Place at Mngqesha outside King William’s Town, Burns-Ncamashe said their claim in collaboration with the Khoi and San would stretch inland towards Stormberg, the Karoo, Somerset East and Graaff-Reinet.

Yesterday’s announcement comes days after President Jacob Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill into law.

The new bill paves the way to reopen land claims after the initial period closed in 1998 and now gives claimants until June 2019 to lodge claims.

According to the legislation people can only claim for land dispossessed after 1913.

The announcement of the AmaRharhabe claim follows that of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who announced he would claim all the land that covers the entire KwaZulu-Natal province.

Burns-Ncamashe said the reopening of the window period “is affording AmaRharhabe the greatest opportunity to reclaim our land which was dispossessed”.

“We believe throughout the history of conquest and dispossession, all historians, whether Europeans or Africans, will agree no nation engaged colonialists more than the Rharhabe kingdom.

“We fought with all those who mercilessly invaded our country in nine frontier wars stretching over 100 years.

“In all those wars our land was dispossessed and there is no nation that can, with authority, claim ownership of that land other than AmaRharhabe.

“It is to the house of Phalo, particularly the Rharhabe royal house, that the history of resistance to British colonial conquest and apartheid rule in the Eastern Cape is known and which provided the germinating seeds of the liberation movement in the country,” said Burns-Ncamashe.

He said they had decided to collaborate their claim with the Khoi and San people “because King Rharhabe himself was one of the leading traditional leaders who fought with the Khoi and San.

“Today marks the beginning of an historic rectifying process. We feel this opportunity will actually give us what legitimately belongs to us,” said Burns-Ncamashe.

The Khoi and San’s Hamqumqwe Royal Council chairman, Boy Arends, yesterday confirmed they would collaborate with the AmaRharhabe in lodging their claim.

“Talks on this have been going on for some time, even when King Sandile was still alive.

“We appreciate this opportunity as it will help restore the dignity of our people who were victims of colonialists who were after nothing but our land,” Arends said.

Eastern Cape land claims commission director of operations Zama Memela said it would be the biggest claim in the province.

He warned, however, against the prospects of its success, saying it would first have to go through an intense investigation after being lodged.

“This will be the first time we receive such a big claim in the province. In the previous window we did have some big claims from traditional leaders but most of them were unsuccessful as they did not meet the requirements.

“When claiming, people must be able to identify which land they are claiming and prove who was removed from that land after 1913,” Memela said.

There was an added challenge with people misinterpreting the new law and bringing up historical claims related to kingships.

“This amended law is not to determine the boundaries of royals. There must first be an investigation to show those people who were really removed from particular land and that it was done after 1913.”

Memela said in the previous window the province had received 17638 claims. There were now only 991 outstanding claims to settle.

He said more than R1.5-billion had been paid out as more than 80% of claimants preferred money to land.

The Rharhabe Kingdom was established in 1740 by King Rharhabe, whose father was King Phalo.

In recent years, it was led by King Maxhobayakhawuleza Sandile, who died in 2012.

Sandile’s wife Queen Noloyiso, who is Zwelithini’s sister, is currently regent until her son finishes his studies.

Their kingship was set aside on the recommendation of the Nhlapo Commission in 2010, resulting in their demotion after Sandile’s death to the status of senior traditional leadership.

The kingdom filed papers in April at North Gauteng High Court to challenge that decision.

Burns-Ncamashe said yesterday they were now waiting for a court date. — asandan@dispatch.co.za

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