South African squatters offered homes for "being nice" FWD

Tom Boland (
Thu, 19 Feb 1998 08:52:36 -0800 (PST)

FWD  Feb 17, 1998  By Richard Meares


FRANSCHHOEK, South Africa, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Some of
South Africa's penniless shack dwellers have been offered a
place to call their own in paradise, as long as they agree to be

Wealthy wine estate owners, homeless people and the local
council in the Cape winelands town of Franschhoek on Monday
night signed what they say is a model local accord to end the
conflict over land between apartheid's winners and losers.

The town will give a plot of land free, and in needy cases
provide services and help with house-building, to any of an
estimated 2,000 current squatters in the idyllic sunny valley.

But in return the new owner must sign a ``Social Compact,''
promising to abstain from crime, pay his bills and discourage
newcomers from squatting on South Africa's dearest real estate.

Transgress, and he will lose the title to his land and be
homeless once again.

The pretty town, named ``French corner'' in Afrikaans after the
Huguenot religious exiles who founded it in the 17th century,
sits under majestic mountains and among renowned vineyards
managed from thatched and whitewashed mansions.

But just when arriving tourists are contemplating how perfect a
place it is, the ``Vietnam'' squatter camp looms beside the road,
a reminder that this is not France or Austria but a country with
one of the world's widest income gaps.

``I'm happy to sign up if it gets me a house, I need some
privacy. I'd manage to pay my bills,'' said Steven Samuels, 37.

``It's my dream to have a house,'' said shack dweller Jacques
Williams. ``We'd like the white people to give us plots of land
and help us build.''

In the last five years of transition in South Africa, first local
mixed-race ``coloureds'' set up their shacks of tin or wood from
pallets here. Then came blacks from faraway Transkei, one of
the country's most depressed rural regions.

``We don't want any squatter camps with people drifting around
who are potential perpetrators of crime,'' said Franschhoek
mayor Norman Kahlberg.

He said the land deal was unique because all sectors of the
community had negotiated it together and it gave the homeless
far more than the 15,000 rand ($3,000) the government offers to
help people build their first home.

The council hopes to sell the land the squatters are living on for
high-class residential development. The proceeds will be used
exclusively for resettling the people on farmland nearby.

The agreement is also meant to address disputes involving local
people who were dispossessed of their land when apartheid
legislation some 30 years ago rezoned it for whites only.

Prime residential land is being offered to compensate them for
what they lost -- to benefit claimants who would otherwise wait
years for a settlement and landowners whose properties were in
dispute, mayor Kahlberg said.

The Cape winelands have come up with other innovative
solutions to land reform problems. At least two vineyard owners
have just handed over parts of their farms to tenant workers.

President Nelson Mandela's all-race government has made land
reform a priority in a country where the white minority, whose
apartheid-era leaders banished blacks to dusty townships and
infertile remote homelands, has kept the lion's share.

Its policy is based on using state funds to buy up land and
redistribute it to the needy, but Land Minister Derek Hanekom
said last week resistance from landowners meant tougher
measures such as expropriation might soon be needed.

He stressed that any farms thus acquired would still be paid for
at market rates.

South Africa seems highly unlikely to follow the example of
Zimbabwe where President Robert Mugabe says vast amounts
of prime white-owned commercial farmland, the country's
agricultural lifeline, will be used to resettle poor blacks.


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