Salem farmers apply to appeal

SEVERAL Salem farmers have lodged an application for leave to appeal against a judgment of the Land Claims Court that could see them losing much of their acreage in a substantial community land claim.

The court has ruled as valid a claim by dozens of Xhosa claimants to a massive tract of land in Salem near Grahamstown.

After months of hearing evidence, inspections in loco, and perusing mounds of historical documents, maps, aerial photographs and expert historian reports, Acting Judge Cassim Sardiwalla ruled the community had been dispossessed of their land as a result of racially discriminatory laws and practices.

In terms of the Land Rights Act, this means the court can now consider the feasibility of restoring the land to the claimants or finding other ways to compensate them. But the application for leave to appeal is likely to put the brakes on the process.

The lawyer for the landowners, Bertus van der Merwe from Cox and Partners in Vryheid, yesterday confirmed in a letter that they would seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

“The effect of the appeal is that the implementation of the judgment is suspended pending the outcome of the appeal.”

Advocate Joel Krige, who appeared on behalf of the land commission yesterday, said the commission would most probably oppose the application for leave to appeal. He confirmed the judgment was automatically suspended by normal process of law until the appeal was decided.

In their notice of intention to apply for leave to appeal to the SCA, the landowners say they believe Sardiwalla erred in several respects, including his findings that the claimants existed as a community as defined by legislation or that they had ever held land rights in the commonage. – Adrienne Carlisle

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