Posted on August 24, 2005

State Moves to Take Control of First Farm Redistributed After Apartheid

Cape Argus (Cape Town), Aug. 22

Nearly a decade after the Elandskloof farm near Citrusdal became the first land in South Africa to be redistributed after the end of apartheid, the government wants its administration taken out of public hands.

Department of Land Affairs officials claim the community association running the farm has been characterised by mismanagement, divisions within its membership and undemocratic decision making.

They also allege that their Cape High Court application to take over the administration of the 3 138ha farm from the Elandskloof Communal Property Association is being supported by most of the 70 families living on the farm.

Western Cape land reform office director Terance Fife said he had worked with the Elandskloof Communal Property Association since 1997, the year after the farm was formally restored to the community, which had been booted out by apartheid legislation 34 years earlier.

But nine years after the historic redistribution, Fife said the Elandskloof families continued to live in “temporary houses with rudimentary services”.

Community member Andre Titus revealed in papers before the court that residents had no electricity or telephone services and said there was general uncertainty among the community about the land’s development, crop harvesting and payment for labour.

Under its 1996 constitution, Fife said it was the association’s responsibility to ensure the resettlement of the community that had been dispossessed during apartheid, as well as to organise the provision of housing and electricity, sewerage, water and roads.

The association was also charged with the development of agricultural and other economic activities.

Fife said: “Although Elandskloof has enormous agricultural potential, its resources (including fruit, fynbos and buchu) are not being effectively developed, and opportunities to secure investment have been compromised.

“In the course of the association’s history of fraught governance, worthwhile development initiatives have been hampered and prejudiced.”

According to Fife, one of the main problems faced by the association was a “lack of the necessary skills and capacity” required to fulfil its tasks.

“The skills deficit is directly attributable to the disadvantage suffered by members under apartheid and must be addressed by means of focused skilled development programmes,” he said.

It also in emerged in papers before the court that the government’s application had been lodged a year after the Elandskloof Communal Property Association’s former and then-current chairmen became embroiled in a Cape High Court dispute.

This centred on alleged mismanagement of funds, failure to keep proper financial records, and disruption of association meetings.

Former chairman Jurie Gouws also claimed that now suspended chairman Oerson Januarie had benefited personally from a much-publicised Elandskloof fynbos development project.

Gouws’s application was postponed indefinitely, after the disputing parties agreed that an independent acting chairman should be appointed to manage the association.

Following Gouws’s suspension, Fife said a number of groups and individuals had claimed to be acting on behalf of the association and added that it was important that the administration of Elandskloof be decided as soon as possible.

Cape Judge President John Hlophe ordered last week that the application, which has been opposed by the association, should be heard on October 18.