Rehoboth Basters Still Holding On For Erven

24 Jan 2014 13:50pm
By Anna Salkeus
(Nampa Features Service)

REHOBOTH, 24 JAN (NAMPA) - The fragile, worn out piece of paper Rehoboth resident Willem Steyn carries with him seems as if it is only being held together by his dream of owning his own piece of land.
It is almost falling apart and the black ink slowly fading, but he holds on to this piece of paper given to him more than two decades ago by the then Kaptein's (Captain's) Council in Rehoboth as it entitles him to a free piece of land in the town's Block G.
The 50-year-old Steyn is just one of 300 Rehoboth residents who have occupied a piece of land at Rehoboth’s Kuvukiland illegally since the beginning of January this year, and one of many men from the town who are still waiting to receive their birthright land known as ‘burger’ (citizen) land.
He recently told Nampa that he applied for the land with the Kaptein's Council in 1987, and his application was approved.
The initial size of the land to be given to every man born in Rehoboth, and who turned 18 before Independence in 1990, was supposed to be 1 300 square metres. Due to the demand for land however, only 300 to 350 square metres can be allocated.
Another resident, Dennis van Wyk said he has been waiting for his land since 1986.
“All they have to do is say that this land will be owned by this person. I've chosen an erf and I have even gone as far as saying that this erf is mine,” he said.
Van Wyk said he has staked off the land and put a piece of paper with his name and contact details with it on a tree by the erf.
“I challenge any man to tell me that the burger erf I have chosen is not mine. They can shoot me with a bullet in my head, but I won't move,” he said.
Another resident, Magreth Cloete said whenever people approach the Rehoboth Town Council, they are left with empty promises that the land will be delivered to them.
“Some residents have been waiting to get their land since 1974 and have already turned 60 without getting what was promised to them. They are receiving their pensions even before owning their own land,” Cloete said.
She said another problem is that some Basters who received erven after turning 18 could not build on the promised erven because it was allocated to more than one person.
“When they requested that the one owner be removed from the land and be moved to another piece of land, it was not done,” she said.
The residents also claim that land which they believe was made available as burger land is instead given to property developers and business people who use it to generate an income.
There are hundreds more stories like Van Wyk and Steyn’s, of people who have not given up on receiving what they feel they are entitled to.
Deputy Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Theo Diergaardt, who also serves as councillor of the Rehoboth Urban West constituency, said people are still entitled to their free erven.
He told this reporter on enquiry that Rehoboth was governed as a semi-independent state before 1990.
“One of the laws were that when you turned 18 years old, you could apply to the Rehoboth government and get an erf,” he said.
Diergaardt said male residents of Rehoboth who were born or who turned 18 before Independence are still entitled to their free erven, 24 years after Independence.
This information is contained in a six-page document called the Rukoro Report of 1992, which was compiled by then Attorney-General Vekuii Rukoro.
The Rukoro Report of 1992, which was endorsed by Cabinet, makes provision for 3 000 erven to be made available to Rehoboth Basters under the ‘Paternal Law’, which stipulates that men born in Rehoboth and who turn 18 before Independence, are eligible to receive a piece of land.
The report also states that residents of Rehoboth who applied for free erven before Independence and whose applications were approved by the Captain and the Captain's Council at the time, but due to the unavailability of surveyed erven were not allocated a specific erf, will be entitled to the promised free erven.
Diergaardt reiterated that a decision was taken by Cabinet after Independence which gave the Rehoboth Town Council instructions to allocate this land.
“This never happened although it was a Cabinet decision that the town council, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, should give these erven to the people. People were waiting all these years for free erven and now they are involving themselves in illegal land grabbing,” he said.
He added that because of the Cabinet resolution those who are entitled to erven can still expect to receive their erven.
“These are the last people who will receive free erven and nobody else. This is where it will stop,” he said, adding that the names of those who qualify for free erven are with the town council.
“Servicing the land and providing sanitation and water is a costly exercise, but it can be done. The Rehoboth Town Council will give the erven, but they will give it in phases,” he said.
Diergaardt advised that people should sit down with the town council and negotiate on the way forward regarding the free erven because they are in possession of these letters.
“They must get their land,” he said.