Report on the Mekgareng community land claim (case no LCC171/2008)


Archaetnos cc was requested by Mketsu & Associates Inc. Attorneys to investigate information relating to the Mekgareng land claim (Case no LCC171/2008). The claim was lodged in terms of the provision of the Restitution of Lands Rights Act (Act 22 of 1994). Some of the current land owners however are disputing the land claim.

The Terms of Reference for the study were as follows:
1. To conduct historical and archaeological research on the claims of the Mekgareng people.
2. To assist in the location, investigation and documentation of cultural (heritage), sites linked to the Mekgareng people.
3. To visit some of the more important historical sites linked to the Mekgareng people and the land claim that they have lodged.
4. To record oral evidence given by the representatives of the groups on the importance to the community of each site, including structural remains, graves and other features.
5. To draft a report, based on observation, photographic documentation and oral evidence provided by the members of the Mekgareng (claimants).
The investigation of archaeological sites was limited to those indicated by the Mekgareng people. It is further acknowledged that sites (e.g. ruins and graves) linked to the white farmers and inhabitants of the area also exist. These were not studied as it falls outside of the scope of this report. However, these should be taken into consideration in determining the history of the geographical area in question.

The archaeological investigation was limited to the assessment of sites and acquiring oral information from the Mekgareng people. No archaeological excavation was done as this is only seen as a last resort. It needs to be stated however that archaeological excavation is highly unlikely to provide more substantial results.

Graves were also assessed. However graves usually only indicate that someone is buried there and sometimes who the buried person is. It indicates nothing more. Sometimes graves do not have headstones and one therefore has to rely on additional oral information. Should this be contested, the only possible way to elucidate this would be to exhume the remains and have forensic and DNA tests done. Even when there is sufficient proof of who were buried, it proofs nothing more than that. One therefore has to use additional information to determine why these people were buried here.

Certain files requested from the National Archives were either lost or without the indicated documents related to this study. Accordingly this information could not be studied. For certain farms no information is available in the Deeds Office as a result of the bad state of preservation of these records. In such cases deeds information could not be obtained.

An important aspect relating to any kind of historical research is the difference between scientific proof, based on written historical sources, and oral historical sources. The credibility and validity of the first mentioned is accepted due to the fact that it is housed in government archives where only original documents are stored. The credibility and validity of last mentioned is a much more complex issue. These need to be tested against other oral accounts, physical evidence and the afore mentioned written documents through a process of authenticity and credibility.

The National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) defines and controls aspects relating to the cultural heritage of South Africa. Graves and burial grounds are dealt with in terms of Section 36(3) of the National Heritage Resources Act.

In terms of this section of the act, no person may, without a permit issued by the relevant heritage resources authority:
a. destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position of otherwise disturb the grave of a victim of conflict, or any burial ground or part thereof which contains such graves;
b. destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position or otherwise disturb any grave or burial ground older than 60 years which is situated outside a formal cemetery administered by a local authority; or
c. bring onto or use at a burial ground or grave referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) any excavation, or any equipment which assists in the detection or recovery of metals.

For this study a survey of literature was undertaken in order to obtain historical information regarding the Mekgareng. This included information obtained from reports done for the current land owners and reports on aerial photography done by specialist in this field. Information from the old farm registers in the Deeds Office in Pretoria as well as documents from the National Archives in Pretoria was studied in order to obtain additional information.

Archaeological sites (including graves and ruins) were visited with the claimants, sometimes accompanied by farm owners, in order to assess these. Additional information obtained from the people was also taken into consideration. Interviews were held with members of the Mekgareng and were used to obtain oral information relating to the land claim.

Sites are documented within the standard convention of the archaeological practice by taking photographs, GPS coordinates and doing descriptions. All the information is integrated in a discussion under the heading of each farm. A final summary of findings are given separate.
The following 7 farms are listed as part of the Mekgareng land claim and were included in the scope of this report:
1. Leeuwenkloof 480 JQ
2. Broederstroom 481 JQ
3. Welgegund 491 JQ
4. Hartebeesthoek 498 JQ
5. Kafferskraal 501 JQ
6. Praetors Ride 562 JQ
7. Hartbeespoort 482 JQ

As this report only deals with historical matters, attention is not given to any other legal reasoning or arguments in this case.

The reasons for and dispute of the claim includes the following:
1. The claimants’ forefathers occupied and used the land from time immemorial, including during the 1800’s.
2. Their forefathers and some of the elderly members of the claimants were dispossessed of or ousted from their land rights in a gradual and systematic process commencing during or before 1933 through to the 1970’s as a result of racial discriminatory laws.
3. Dispossession occurred after 19 June 1913.
4. Some of the people and their parents were forcefully removed by the Apartheid regime.
The disputing land owners contest to this on the following grounds:
1. There never was a community such as the Mekgareng people with traditional or occupation rights.
2. Some of the claimants may have had rights as individual labour tenants under individual contract with the relevant land owners.3. The claimants were never dispossessed of any rights in land after 19 June 1913 as a result of racially discriminatory laws and practices.

Historical information from land owners’ reports indicate that until 1994 the area under investigation was part of the area reserved for whites only. No land here was held in trust for black people by missionaries, held in trust by the state or was included in exchange or purchase transactions initiated by the state.

The entire area was referred to as the Pretorius Moot and AWJ Pretorius and members of his family settled here after 1840. It seems that they chose this area as it was scarcely populated by black people. He made use of Zulu employees which he brought along from Natal and also of indentured labour by using the children younger than 18 years of his labourers. On becoming 18 they usually entered into labour contracts with their employer. Some black labourers who did work to the south of the Magaliesberg, lived on the farm Kafferskraal 501 JQ and were engaged in farming activities, were employed as family units

Black ownership of land was not allowed in the old ZAR, but as long as they adhered to the laws they could stay on land. In certain cases this was lifted and black people were given title deeds. By 1876 land were specifically marked out for so-called Native reserves or locations. After 1881 land acquired by black groups were transferred to the name of the Secretary for Native Affairs which served as trustee. After the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) all farms not privately owned were defined as unalienated Crown land meaning it belonged to the state. Certain land was reserved for the use of black people. Sometimes missionaries assisted black tribes to procure land.

Only five households were allowed on white owned farms. The Native Location Commission identified 17 communities to which 37 reserves were demarcated between 1881 and 1899. None of these were in the investigated area. During the early 1960’s influx control measures were put in place for black people in the Hartebeespoort Dam area. This included three of the claimed farms, being Leeuwenkloof, Broederstroom and Welgegund. Among other issues this meant that employers had to enter into employment contracts with workers, registration regulations were implemented and ‘natives’ needed permission to be in the area. This resulted in black workers residing on the properties of their employers.

Information from anthropological sources that were studied, made no mention of the Mekgareng. Mixed communities indicated in these sources, were not located in the area under discussion.

For the farm Leeuwenkloof, it is concluded that the documentary evidence on the farm is enough to indicate that it belonged to white farmers since 1869. There is no evidence indicating that portions of this farm were owned by other people. It is however clear that black people utilized the area for residential and burial purposes. The sites indicated by the claimants therefore indicate that the Mekgareng people utilized the farm. From the historical evidence it seems that the reason was that they were labour tenants on these farms or that they leased it for grazing purposes.

For the farm Broederstroom it is concluded that the documentary evidence on the farm is enough to indicate that it belonged to white farmers since at least 1855 when it was still called Rhenosterpoort. No documentary evidence was found indicating that the farm or portions thereof was owned by black people. Documentary evidence from 1960 indicates that there was no substantial black population on the farm and it was not regarded a so-called black spot. However, this does mean that black people were residing on the farm. The evidence also indicate that those not employed had to leave during the 1960’s and 1970’s, which corroborates with evidence given by members of the Mekgareng. The aerial photographic evidence indicates many structures during the years between 1968 and 2002, although much less ruins were located. The residential sites found most likely are these ruins indicated. Graves indicated by claimants seem to date (date of death) between 1915 and 1997, indicating the presence of these people in the area. It is clear from the above mentioned that the claimants (or their forefathers) did stay on the farm and did bury their dead here. It however does not indicate that they were the original owners of the land.

Information related to the farm Welgegund leads to the conclusion that the documentary evidence on the farm is enough to indicate that it belonged to white farmers since 1856. It however is certain that black people were resident on the farm. In 1933 some ‘natives’ leased a portion of the land for grazing purposes. Only one residential site, which is similar to most of the others described in this report, was found. The dates of death on the two grave sites indicated vary between 1913 and 1951, but it needs to be stated that most of the graves do not have dates on them. These are however typical 20th century burials for black people. It is therefore concluded that these people were present on the site during the 20th century. It does however not seem as if they were the owners.

For the farm Hartebeesthoek it is concluded that the documentary evidence on the farm is enough to indicate that it belonged to white farmers since 1864. The archaeological evidence clearly indicates that the Mekgareng people were present on this farm and to quite a large extent. No less than twelve residential sites have been identified and almost all of these consist of more than one dwelling. These are most likely the structures/ ruins identified by Gerber and Chandler, which means that it existed by 1949. The seven grave yards that were pointed out also indicates the presence of the Mekgareng people on the farm. There must have been a specific relationship between them and the farm owners, which allowed them to bury their deceased here. It needs to be indicated that this relationship also seems to have been in existence fairly recently as some grave sites seem quite recent with dates of death indicated as being between 1980 and 2003. One of the sites identified is a Late Iron Age/ Historical site, typical of the traditional 18th and 19th century residential sites. It seems as if this site was only utilized by the Mekgareng, meaning that they found it like this. According to oral information it was used by them as a site for conducting religious ceremonies which resulted in the heap of stones which can be seen on the site.

Information gathered on the farm Kafferskraal leads to the conclusion that the documentary evidence on the farm is enough to indicate that it belonged to white farmers since at least 1859. It seems as if the farm or portions thereof never were owned by black people. As no sites on this farm was indicated by the claimants, it is impossible to make any other deductions.

For the farm Praetors Ride it is concluded that the documentary evidence on the farm indicate that the farm was only established in 1982. It however consisted of portion of the farms Kafferskraal and Hartebeesthoek which had already been dealt with. The documentary evidence on these farms are enough to indicate that it belonged to white farmers since the Mid-19th century and that, even after subdivisions were made, this was still the case. The farm Praetors Ride only came into being at a time after any possible forced removals took place.

Relating to the farm Hartebeestpoort historical information indicates that this farm belonged to white farmers since at least 1864. Grave sites identified by the claimants, most likely did belong to farm workers. The building style of the building that was identified and artefacts found in the area, relates to the 1960’s-1970’s.

Report by

Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.)