Give us back our land, whites tell Makwetu

A Queenstown family accuses Clarence Makwetu of using his influence to deprive them of their land. Marion Edmunds reports

THE former Pan Africanist Congress president, Clarence Makwetu, used his contacts in the Cabinet to block a land claim from white farmers for a 761ha property which he says is his own.

According to Neville Fletcher, in 1995 his family was granted the right to buy back their old farm, Mandelay, in the Queenstown area, after a lengthy battle with the South African government. In 1979 the family had been forced by the government to sell the 2 000ha property to make way for the independent homeland of Transkei.

Fletcher was the third generation of his family to inherit the farm, established by Joseph Fletcher in the late 19th century.

Since 1979, the family has been fighting against their forced removal, to reclaim what they believe is their birthright. Although they won in the courts, they were unable to take on Makwetu, who lobbied Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Derek Hanekom for support.

“We put the claim for our land through the Lands Claim Court before 1994, and we won it there. We put it through the new Land Claims Court and we won it there. But then Hanekom would not give it to us, so we went to the Grahamstown Supreme Court and we won it there. Still Hanekom would not give it to us,” said Fletcher this week.

“There was not a hitch until Makwetu came into it. Then we were bombarded with accusations that we were trying to kick out black farmers and the department would not grant it to us.”

Complicated negotiations ensued towards the end of last year, until finally a compromise deal was struck and Makwetu was given the option to buy from the government the 761ha he wanted at a market-related price. A Land Affairs official would not say what price Makwetu would have to pay, but it is expected to be in the region of R300 000.

Fletcher, who now has the option to buy the rest of the land, still has to find the capital to make the purchase.

“We have fought so hard and long for this that I will scrape up the money to buy the land,” he said this week. “However, it has been ruined, it is in a shambles. When we went back to it for the first time after getting it back, with family and friends, it was meant to be a bit of a celebration, but really it was a day for tears. They had made a fireplace in the middle of the house and my wife’s garden - she died of cancer last year - used to win prizes, it was so beautiful. Now it is destroyed.”

Fletcher will have an enigmatic neighbour in Makwetu, who established himself on the farm while he was in exile in Transkei, after having been released from imprisonment on Robben Island. Fletcher says Makwetu built a small house on top of a mountain, and was seldom at home. Rumour has it he was able to lease the land, and possibly other land, as a favour from the then Transkei leader George Matanzima.

According to parliamentary sources, after 1994 Makwetu lobbied the then minister of telecommunications, Pallo Jordan, for a telephone, and lobbied Minister of Private Enterprises Stella Sigcau to get electricity put into his simple abode.

Meanwhile, the PAC is battling to evict Makwetu from the party, from his office in Parliament and from the National Assembly. Despite having been given a formal letter of expulsion on Tuesday, Makwetu has chosen to ignore the order and continues “business as usual”.

He handed back the formal letter of expulsion, given to him by his angry colleagues, without signing it and took up his seat in Parliament in the middle of the week, admittedly with a scowl.

Makwetu is apparently worried his bank will not give him a loan which he needs should he lose his MP’s salary. The PAC has granted him a stay of expulsion until a meeting of its national executive on May 24.

The PAC has also failed to lay any charges concerning misappropriation of funds during the 1994/95 financial year when Makwetu was leading the party, despite a decision at a party congress last December for a report to be made to the police. The decision was taken after a commission of inquiry revealed millions of rands had gone missing from party coffers.

A briefcase of American dollars from Nigeria was handed to Makwetu in 1993 and the money was not only not counted at the time, but has never subsequently been accounted for. Approximately R1-million of Independent Electoral Commission money, given to the PAC for electioneering, was moved to a King William’s Town bank account, allegedly on Makwetu’s instructions, and has never been seen again.

The PAC leadership has complained that its commission of inquiry headed by Xhoisan X!‘s wife, Imani, has failed to forward the necessary details to lay charges against those who are suspected to have stolen the party’s money.

Repeated attempts by the Mail & Guardian to obtain comment from Makwetu this week were unsuccessful.

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