The portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development has begun its week-long oversight visit to Gwatyu in the Eastern Cape in an effort to resolve unresolved land claims dating back to the 1990s.
According to the committee’s media officer, Sureshinee Govender, “[The oversight] visit follows a committee resolution in December 2021 to visit the area after it received complaints from the community, traditional leaders and former farmworkers regarding the rightful ownership of land”.
Yesterday the deputy ministers of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Mcebisi Skwatsha and Zoleka Capa, together with the Eastern Cape MEC for rural development and agrarian reform, Nonkqubela Pieters, met with King Dalimvula Matanzima of the AbaThembu royal house.
During the meeting the committee received a historical account of the displacement of communities from Gwatyu. This was followed by a briefing session with government departments.
The people of Gwatyu have been in an endless battle with government for years, seeking the transfer of ownership of the approximately 42 000 hectares – constituting of 88 farms – from the government to the Gwatyu communal property association (CPA). Gwatyu is a farmstead and is located in the Chris Hani District Municipality.
During a committee session in December last year, members of parliament heard that most of the claims that were lodged by the communities of Gwatyu in the Eastern Cape and Baroka Ba Nkwana and Bakoni Ba Mmamaro in Limpopo, had not been finalised, and that the department was facing challenges in the process of resolving them.
Concerns over CPAs
There are concerns that the department had reportedly not made efforts to assist claimants who had lodged their claims before the 1998 cut-off date, which would delay the process of new land claims that had to be lodged, especially since the process of finalising land claims seemed to be taking forever.
According to committee member Manketsi Tlhape the history of Gwatyu showed that there could not be one established CPA. “A political intervention [is] required to ensure that processes were smooth and CPA appointments were duly made. The rightful people had to benefit from the CPAs in Gwatyu.”
Another committee member, Ndumiso Capa said that the department had to highlight the sustainability of the farms in Gwatyu and the amount of farming that happened on these farms.
“There [is] a tendency of people occupying land for the sake of occupying instead of for agricultural purposes. It [is] important that the matter be separated from political interference.”Member of Parliament Ndumiso Capa
Meanwhile, chairperson of the committee, Zwelivelile Mandela, proposed that three meetings be scheduled to receive reports from the regional offices about the outstanding pre-1998 land claims.
Today, the committee will engage with leadership of affected parties in Queenstown and the amaTshatshu Royal and Traditional Council at the Gwatyu Royal House. This is expected to be followed by a community meeting with those living on Gwatyu farms to get insights on the effect of the current situation and exploring mechanisms to resolve the deadlock.
Tomorrow, on the final leg of the weeklong oversight visit to Gwatyu committee members are scheduled to have concluded the session, during which responses from stakeholders and proposals for the way forward will be received.
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