MARULENG: COMMUNITIES SWINDLED THOUSANDS IN LAND CLAIMS
Several communities in Maruleng were left financially limping when their hopes were dashed by a failure of an Attorney appointed to process their land claims. A simple process made easier by government’s determination to expedite all land claims lodged with the Commission on Land Reform and Restitution. Through an agent of the attorney these communities were made to believe that their land claims will be processed and completed at a speed of a lightening. It never happened and these communities are still in the dark as to how far the claim process has moved.
The land claims and the possibility of cashing on settlements attracted a lot of interest from the communities. There are four notable claims for Makhebereng, Masosong – Sekutlong, Portsmouth and Shiduli – Garonga that were lodged through a lawyer that turned out to be a con artist. He was using the services of a local agent Mr Lawrence Mkansi who was responsible for the recruitment of these communities. When it was discovered that he was a bogus lawyer he had already swindled these communities a lot of money and then disappeared.
In subsequent meetings seeking to find a solution to the debacle Mr. Lawrence Mkansi assured the claimants that he will take them to the offices of the lawyer in Pretoria. It came as a surprise given the fact he was an agent who could have detected that the lawyer he brought to the community was actually just interested in swindling money from the people. Since then nothing came through and several adults with vast knowledge of how they were removed from their original places have passed on. Interestingly Mr. Mkansi seems not to be treating the matter as serious as it is and any hope by the community to recover their money has been dashed.
These people were unceremoniously removed from Makhebereng and were driven to various spots that became their second homes. The elderly who witnessed this horrific act of utter oppression still proudly call themselves Makhebere. These people are now found in villages of The Willows and Finale. Their ancestral graves are still lying there and some efforts to clean and identify them were done when the claims were started as they were sure of an immediate settlement. The people of Masosong-Sekutlong joined the queue and optimistically instructed the same Mkanzi Attorneys to file for the claim. They were also dealt the same financial blow when the attorney disappeared into thin air.
The claimants for Shiduli-Garonga initially instructed the same lawyer but later pulled out and opted to lodge their claim through the commission. All these attempts on claiming their ancestral land faltered precisely because a con lawyer took advantage of their hopes. It is therefore expected that the agent will make every effort possible to ensure that these communities recover their hard earned money. He must also be in a position to inform these communities about the easiest way of lodging land claims. The government has set up a simple mechanism which is processed by the commission as a statutory body. The commission doesn’t even charge a cent like the sharks that are swindling the poor communities of their hard earned money.
Mr. Mkansi promised to do an interview with us to clarify the matter but he has since stopped taking our calls. Several attempts to contact him failed and it is therefore deemed that he has got something to hide. The unfortunate part for him is that he is now a public representative for the Democratic Alliance in the Maruleng municipality and as such capable of understanding the ramifications of a rogue leader. It was expected of him to ensure that this matter that involves thousands of rand swindled from the unsuspecting communities is resolved. It will take his own courage and honesty to meet with the various committees and find a way of putting this matter to finality by a way of ensuring that they get their monies back.
Mr. Maimela of Finale raised his disappointment in the manner that his community committed several thousands just to hit a brick wall when they had thought they were to get their ancestral land back. He indicated they had expected Mr. Mkansi to lead the way in the recovery plan but that he seems to be treating the urgency of the matter in abeyance. Mr. Hendrick Kobene, the first committee secretary pointed out to how the aspirations of the community were dashed when they detected some elements of dishonesty from Mr. Mkansi and the lawyer. These signs were detected when the lawyer demanded huge transport payments just to come and collect papers which he could still achieve by using electronic mails. Efforts to get the side of the lawyer failed due to non reply of our emails and calls.
The communities are now in the dark and there is no sign of respite. Mr. Pako a committee member for the Masosong-Sekutlong related how they were dummied by the lawyer and the lack of determination to recover the money by Mr. Mkansi as the agent. He said the only thing that he did was to tell them that the lawyer has died but he could take them to his offices. These affected communities are now without hope that they will ever get their money back. It is now up to these communities to engage with the commission using the reference number that they were given by the lawyer to try and continue with the claims.
The various committees representing the affected communities should be resuscitated obviously by Mr. Mkansi in order to ensure that justice is done to the matter. The general view hold by the affected communities is to get refunded. These committees that were used to coordinate the process deserve to be taken into confidence. Land is the core to economic emancipation. The commission should therefore be approached to fast track this matter if it was ever lodged with it. This then calls for clarity so that the communities can be placed on the right footing. These dispossessed communities deserve better than to be taken for a ride as it stands. Their plight can only be alleviated once the agent makes the effort to engage the offices of the so called deceased lawyer.
Keeping quite about this matter will only serve to aggravate the discomfort of the affected communities precisely because their hard earned cash has just fizzled into thin air. Reliable leadership should therefore be exercised by the agent so that the matter can be brought to finality. At this stage and in the absence of a reasonable explanation the communities are thus justified to conclude that Mr. Mkansi is complicit to the whole saga. He will therefore have to rise above the deafening silence, engage them in a bid to bring the offices of the lawyer to accountability.
Land claim cases are usually replete with challenges of possible beneficiaries getting raw deals from people entrusted with the facilitation tasks. This is one of those classical examples of extreme deprivation of their right to regain dispossessed land. And there are many that require intervention.
In time the truth shall come out and the culprits account for their misdemeanor. The most shocking is that communities are disadvantaged by their own people. Hopefully these affected communities shall be taken into confidence and get justice served.
There is hope on the horizon if these vast tracts of land can be claimed back and the communities assisted to establish cooperatives for maximum use in food production and other economic activities. The enlightened people in these communities should come on board and be part of the solution and planning for the optimal use of their ancestral land.
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Politics & Governance