The Story of Waag Alles: 13 years of broken promises
- Ms. S. Mbatha Secretary, Waag Alles Committee
Waag Alles is one the longest awaiting restitution claims! Ministers and Commissioners have come and gone, but in spite of the Land Restitution Act, No 22 of 1994 it has not been returned to its rightful owners.
Ministers include; Mr Derek Hanekom, Ms Thoko Didiza, Ms Lulama Xingwana. Commissioners; Mr Joe Seremane, Dr Wallace Mgoqi, and currently Mr Tozi Gwanya. KZN-Regional Commissioners include; Ms Cherryl Walker, Ms Thabi Shange and currently Ms Sduduzile Sosibo.
Copies of the title deeds of the 15 original landowners at Waag Alles are found in the Deeds Registry in Pietermaritzburg — bought in 1915 by labour tenants who had saved their earnings to buy the farm so that their future generations could freely access education. In their wills it is clearly stated that the land must never be sold. Little did they know that the apartheid government would just grab it, without compensation.
In March 1972 we were forcibly evicted from Waag Alles. It was two months before a bumper harvest and our livelihood and farming implements were left behind. We were instantly impoverished! We were moved to Osizweni and Madadeni, where each family had to squeeze itself into 4-roomed ‘match boxes’. The furniture that could not fit had to be left outside to be stolen and destroyed.
We were a stable, self-sufficient, Christian and peace loving community. All that vanished overnight! Livestock went for a song! R20 per head, “take it or leave it, livestock is not allowed in the location!” the buyers would say. We had to look for jobs; at Iscor or domestic work. We were forced to leave land, for which we had title and to pay rent every month. A cultural shock indeed! We had managed to produce our own food and sell the extra. From the income, we had even paid for our children’s education.
In 1995 a Mabaso family went to ask Henk Zaal for permission to erect tombstones on family’s graves. Zaal threatned to shoot them, if they do not disappear from his land. In 1998 a Khumalo family took a sick lady, to their ancestral graves. They did not know permission had to be sought. Zaal locked them up. He called white farmers armed with guns and electric shocks normally used on cattle. A Newcastle Detective Inspector pleaded with them to arrest them instead of taking the law into their own hands, but he was brutally beaten. They were saved by the Dannhauser Police who were not called to testify at the trial.
Although the beatings occurred in June 1998, the case went to court only in July 2000. Not all the accused were present and the victims lost the case! Apartheid is still alive and well!
Progress of the claim
In 1987 assisted by AFRA, we submitted a land claim to the Nationalist government. The response was that it was in private ownership; there was nothing they could do. As soon as the Land Restitution Act was functional, Pretoria returned our claim with relevant information of the KZN Regional Land Claims Commissioner (RLCC). We must have been one of the first submissions, alas, little did we know that 11 years on we would still be landless!
On 14 July 2000 Henk Zaal asked that the claim be withdrawn as there is no water in the area — A BLATANT LIE! Manzinyama River is one of the rivers that feed the Chelmsford Dam and it never goes dry. How come he grazes his beef cattle there? He stated that he opposed the claim, nearly two years after he was legally entitled to do so.
In 2001, Waag Alles was valuated (at Zaal’s instruction) and nothing happened. In 2002, it was again valuated and Zaal offered about 2000 ha of his farm with the house to government to buy. After this offer was forwarded to the minister, Zaal told the RLCC he had changed his mind, nothing happened.
In August 2007, Zaal and Eugene Van Heerden, saying the claim was invalid, stopped a valuer commissioned by the RLCC. On September 21, the community held a protest march, infuriated by Zaal’s blocking of the third valuation and the delays. 11 years is a very long wait. Our patience has been tested to the limit. We have appealed to the relevant authorities to expedite our claim and have also reported our plight to the Human Right’s Commission. While they count profits earned from our land, we are starving and jobless. Who will compensate us from 1998 (when we should have returned to our land) to date?