Plea for government to do the right thing in 22-year land claim struggle
In a land-claim saga that has dragged on for twenty two and a half years, the Prudhoe Community will finally get back their land, which includes the Fish River Sun resort. This comes after the Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal filed by rival land claim group, the Mazizini in a ruling handed down this week.
This case dates back to 1998 when the Prudhoe Community lodged their claim under the Restitution of Land Rights Act.
In 2018, the Land Claims Court (LCC) awarded restitution of 26 farms to the Prudhoe Community, including land on which the Fish River Hotel is located. The Minister and the Mazizini community appealed to a full bench of the Land Claims Court, but their leave to appeal was dismissed on 3 August 2018. The Mazizini Community then petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) directly for leave to appeal, and that appeal was finally dismissed on 2 June 2020. The Mazizini Community again appealed to the Constitutional Court, and this was dismissed on 20 November 2020.
“After two trials in the Land Claims Court, three appeals to the SCA, and two trips to the Constitutional Court, the country’s apex court has finally put an end to years of legal wrangling,” the Legal Resource Centre, which represents the Prudhoe Community, said in a statement. “Much of the legal fight has been caused by the competing Mazizini Community’s employment of ‘Stalingrad tactics’ which saw repeated, spurious and vexatious appeals being lodged.
“They were often aided and abetted by a Land Claims Commission that gave its unwavering and irrational support to the Mazizini Community despite the absence of any historical evidence to underpin a legitimate land claim by the Mazizini. Thanks to the courts, that claim has finally been rejected as baseless,” the LRC said.
“The 300 families that make up the Prudhoe Community are heaving a collective sigh of relief today as their 22-year wait for the award of their land has finally been concluded. It is a tragedy that 109 of the original 124 heads of Prudhoe households’ claimants have passed away – many in extreme poverty – without seeing the outcome of their claim.”
Gladman Tom, a Prudhoe Community member who has been at the forefront of the community’s claim for the past two decades, hopes that it has not been in vain.
“This has been a painful and drawn-out struggle to reclaim the land we were forcibly removed from in the 1980s. We hope that the government now does everything necessary, and with great speed, to make sure that the farms are transferred to the community immediately and we receive post-settlement support. This is a perfect opportunity for the government to show that it is serious about land restitution and development.
“We really hope that more legal battles are not necessary to force the government to do its job. Please government – do the right thing now. Don’t let us suffer any further,” he said.