R42m settlement for stolen land

ECSTATIC: Deputy Minister of Rural Development Lechesa Tsenoli shows off  a chegue given to the community of Sediba in Thaba Nchu at the weekend.  photo: Michael Tlhakudi
ECSTATIC: Deputy Minister of Rural Development Lechesa Tsenoli shows off a chegue given to the community of Sediba in Thaba Nchu at the weekend. photo: Michael Tlhakudi

A FREE STATE community has received more than R42-million in compensation for their land that was forcibly taken in 1913.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti gave the cheque to the ecstatic Sediba community in Thaba Nchu, Free State, to try and heal the injustices of the past.

This compensation, he said, was in line with the ethos of the provision of the restitution of land rights.

When handing over the cheque, Nkwinti said he hoped the dignity of the people of Sediba had been restored.

"This land was taken away from this community by the apartheid regime and we have given them what belongs to them. This indicates that we have succeeded in providing our people with their land back," Nkwinti said.

He said what happened in the past was wrong and his department needed to improve the lives of the victims.

The Sediba Reserve is one of the three native reserves in the Free State that were established in terms of the Native Land Act of 1913. The others are Thaba Nchu Reserve and Witsieshoek Reserve.

Outside these reserves blacks could not buy or rent land and neither could they acquire the right to land inside the reserves.

The settlement celebration was attended by Rural Development and Land Reform the Deputy Minister Lechesa Tsenoli, Free State premier Ace Magashule and a number of MECs from the Free State.

Beneficiaries could not hide their excitement after accepting their cheque.

Nkwinti said 511 households were expected to benefit from this financial settlement.

"This was the second phase held in a remote rural area. The first phase involved about R19-million that benefited 219 households and about R50-million more is expected to be handed out before the end of the year," Nkwinti said.

He said 23 areas were taken into consideration when the claim was validated.

All claimants are expected to provide the traditional council with identification documents in order to receive payment, the minister said.

"The residents up to this moment do not have ownership rights to the lands given to them, however, the traditional council holds the land on their behalf while they are provided with permission to occupy," he said.

The community of Sediba, led by the late Meshack Moletsane of Morago village, lodged a claim in 1997 on one of the reserves and one of the villages where residents were arrested during apartheid.

Some could not hide their excitement when the minister handed over the cheque.

One of the beneficiaries, Lydia Jammond, who was born and bred in Sediba was thrilled that her land had been restored after all these years.

She said she had waited all her life for this day to come.

"To me this is a joyful day," an elated Jammond said.

"We have finally been given our freedom back after suffering for so many years."

Jammond spoke about how they had suffered during the apartheid era.

Another resident and claimant Susan Kganare, 68, said: "We have been through a lot. The apartheid regime made us suffer in a terrible way."

She said she was going to share her experience with today's youth.

She encouraged the youth to take education seriously.

"No one is going to make it in this lifetime without being educated. Our children must be aware that without education you are nothing.

"We are happy with the compensation from the government," Kganare added.