Land Claims Court to hear first Gauteng case

OWN CORRESPONDENT, Pretoria | Monday 7.50pm.

The Land Claims Court will receive its first urban claim in Gauteng this week, the provincial commission on restitution of land rights said on Monday.

Commissioner Emma Mashinini said in Pretoria that the case involved hundreds of former residents of The Highlands, who were forcibly removed from their homes in 1961. The Highlands, which was declared a “white area” in the 1950s, is now known as Newlands Extention 2, bordering on Menlyn Park in Pretoria.

The claimants have opted for financial compensation, but a dispute has arisen as to the ammount of the settlement.

The commission’s legal officer, Peter Mhangwani, said residents were removed from houses they owned to rented dwellings in Eersterust. Many lost income from renting out rooms, and small farmers were ordered to kill their animals because there was no room for them in Eersterust.

Community representative David Maropeng said the community opted for monetary compensation because “we would not like to see people removed forcibly again”.

Newlands currently comprises about 354 plots, most larger than 5000 square metres.
House prices start at about R400000.

After the commission considered the claim, negotiations between claimants and the department started in April this year. The two parties were unable to agree on the price of the land at the time of the removal, and the formula by which this figure should be upgraded to match today’s prices.

Community representative Ivan Seckle said the estimated value of the land in 1961 was about R2,50 per square metre, although a valuator recently put the price at about 90 cents. “That is what the dispute is all about,” he said.

Mashinini said the Sophiatown land restitution claim in Johannesburg is expected to be the next urban case to be referred to the Land Claims Court. She assured property owners of Sophiatown, formerly known as Triomf, that they need not worry about their land being forcibly taken from them.

Property owners will be given an opportunity to air their views before the Land Claims Court, and will be granted a proper hearing. They can also apply for state legal aid.

Sophiatown was destroyed by the former government in 1958 and 1959, and most residents were moved to Soweto.

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