/ 18 November 2005

Coloureds claim the volkstaat

The future existence of Orania as an Afrikaner volkstaat is being challenged by a land claim. Gazetted in August, the restitution claim on the Northern Cape town has surprised the 600-strong community, which is already embroiled in a battle with the government to win the right to self-determination.

”We were shocked when we heard about the claim in August,” said Manie Opperman, mayor of Orania. ”We did not see it coming at all.”

About 483ha are being claimed. A coloured community of about 60 families says it was forced to leave in 1991, when the white Orania community established the roots of an envisioned volkstaat in the town. The claimants say this constitutes a forced removal in terms of race.

The claim is based on beneficial occupation, where people had lived on a property for 10 years or more before being removed. According to the claimants, labourers who worked on farms and river channels in the area lived in Kleingeluk, a former suburb of Orania, from as early as 1965.

”We know that some of these people were born, bred and married on Orania’s land,” said Sugar Rama-karane, regional land commissioner of the Northern Cape.

Opperman has begun investigations of his own to determine whether the claim is valid. His community wants to fight the claim on the basis that the claimants did not live on the land for the required 10 years.

”Yes, people lived here. But they were working on the Orange river channels. The construction ended in 1979,” he said, adding that the workers included white engineers.

From 1979 to 1984, only a maintenance team was left at the site and the workers moved away, said Opperman. ”In 1985, new construction teams were sent to the channels for new construction, which took place till 1990. In other words, what we are looking for is names. We want to know who these people are who lived on the farm for the supposed 10 years.”

If the claim is successful, Opperman says they will appeal to the government to consider alternative compensation.