Land claimants report department to the Public Protector

Two white farmers from Limpopo are reporting the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to the Public Protector for ignoring their land claims.

Two white farmers from Limpopo are reporting the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) to the Public Protector for ignoring their land claims.

Gideon Holtzhausen and Steven Becker have both applied for land restitution after their land, now part of the Blouberg Nature Reserve, was taken without fair compensation in the early 1980s, when the farms were claimed for the Lebowa homeland by the former Nationalist government.

Holtzhausen and Becker both claim that proper land valuations were never done on the farms before they were sold to the government. “The valuation wasn’t near what the land was worth and did not take the game, boreholes and farm house into account. We were forced to sell and received very little money for our farms,” explained Becker.

The land claims were first submitted in 1996, but the DRDLR has only acknowledged a claim submitted by the Manoko family. Dawid Maree, Holtzhausen’s lawyer, said the two farmers submitted their land claims at the same time as the Manoko family, but only the Manoko claim was published in the Government Gazette.

He said that despite numerous letters to the department’s minister, Gugile Nkwinti, he has not received a single response. This has prompted him to take the matter to the Public Protector. Lolo Manoko, a representative for the Manoko family, confirmed there are no other claims on the Blouberg Nature Reserve.

“It is protocol for the DRDLR to inform any land claimants if a counter-claim is being made on the same piece of land. So far we have not heard anything.” The Manokos claim they were removed from the properties between 1954 and 1978. They are laying claim to a larger piece of land that includes the Blouberg Nature Reserve, but nothing has been finalised yet.

The provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism gave the Manoko claimants the right to hunt game in the reserve in 2009, prompting outrage from conservationists. Becker continued, “The Manokos claim that their land was taken away from them, but it was our land that was taken away. The Manokos worked for us and never owned any land.”

Holtzhausen added, “My grandfather was on that land before the Manoko family even arrived. I have documents that prove that when the land was allocated in 1902 by the English it was given to a different family and only later did the Manokos marry into that family.”

But Manoko too said he has historical documents to prove their case. “We were first on that land. We know who the first farmers were to arrive there and who they employed. Anyone can lodge a claim, but I can tell you that the Holtzhausens and Beckers were not dispossessed of that land. We are the rightful owners.” – Lindi van Rooyen