Phuhlisani working with Eco Africa to develop a community development and land acquisition plan in Ebenheaser

EcoAfrica has a contract with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to develop a community development and land acquisition plan which will give practical effect to the settlement of a long standing restitution claim at Ebenheaser on the West Coast. David Mayson of Phuhlisani has been brought in to the EcoAfrica team as task manager to work with the claimant community and local farm owners to co develop the plan which will detail the expenditure of an estimated 100 million rand which  will be made available to implement the settlement aggreement.

The Legal Resources Centre which has played an important role in supporting the claimant community provides background on the claim in a report written in 2005

A R100 million land claims settlement, the largest in the Western Cape, involving 53 private owners, has been given the green light by government.

Next Monday the land claims commission, the department of land affairs and the Ebenhaeser land claims committee - acting on behalf of the Ebenhaeser community - will sign a framework agreement for the settlement.

The focus of the settlement, which constitutes formal acknowledgement by the state of the merits and quantum of the claim, would be the restoration of the original land to which the community lay claim.

The R100 million would be released over five years in terms of a development plan, which is to be completed within a year of signing.

The Ebenhaeser community, which includes approximately 1 700 adults, lives 40km from Vredendal and about 10km from the mouth of the Olifants River on the west coast.

The claim was lodged on May 22 1996 and since then intensive negotiations with the community have taken place, during which the need for an integrated and co-ordinated development plan for the Ebenhaeser area was identified as a major component of the claim's settlement.

Evidence before the land claims commission was that the Ebenhaeser community has lived in the area since time immemorial.

On July 6 1837 and in partial recognition of the community's rights, two smaller portions of the land to which it had access were registered by virtue of a deed of grant. The farm Ebenezer (4 514ha) was registered in the name of the Rhenish Mission Society to be used as a mission station for the Ebenhaeser people. The other portion, Doornkraal (5 615ha), was reserved for the community.

In 1890 - in breach of the 1837 deed of grant - the Dutch Reformed Church succeeded the Rhenish Missionary Society as trustee of the farm. A stipulation of the trust deed was that the land had to be allocated to the community if the Rhenish Church renounced its trust. Doornkraal remained reserved for the Ebenhaeser people.

In 1860 the state identified the potential for a large-scale irrigation scheme on the Olifants River and construction started in 1912.

Archival records showed that, from as early as 1909, the Dutch Reformed Church had plans for the removal of the Ebenhaeser community. It wished to use the land for the establishment of a poor-white, church-controlled labour colony.

These plans led to the dispossession of the community in 1926, when it was moved in terms of the Ebenezer (Van Rhynsdorp) Exchange of Land Act No. 14 of 1925.

The Ebenhaeser community was dispossessed of its most fertile land on the banks of the river, 3 485ha in all. Of this, 1 566ha was allocated for exclusively white occupation. The community was granted 11 045ha of low-value marginal land without water as 'exchange land' to offset the dispossession.

Unlocking potential
Unlocking potential

Posted: 5/17/2012 (5:28:17 AM)

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