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‘Owning land gives people dignity’ – FMF

“The most important damage apartheid did to people of colour was the expropriation of their right to own property.”

This is one of the main points raised by Executive Director of the Free Market Foundation (FMF) Leon Louw.

Louw spoke at a handover of 132 historical title deeds to residents from Klapmuts, Kylemore, Kayamandi and Franschhoek on Thursday 21 November.

According to a press release from Stellenbosch Municipality, the assistance of the FMF’s Khaya Lam project, funded by the Reinet Foundation, was critical in funding the title deeds. The Reinet Foundation was established by the Rupert family.

“We cannot say apartheid has ended until all South Africans own their land under full unambiguous, freely tradable, title deeds without pre-emptive clauses, without qualifications, just the way white people have always owned land,” Louw further remarked.

“There must be no difference racially in the way everyone in South Africa owns land.”

He also noted that most black South Africans still live under apartheid land law.

“I am very excited that this (title deeds) is finally happening in South Africa, but I’m also embarrassed and ashamed that a generation after apartheid supposably ended most black South Africans and South Africans of colour still don’t own their land.”

Louw added that owning land is an important concept to grasp, and leads to many opportunities.

“There is a fear that people who own land will sell it and become homeless. This is actually not what happens anywhere, as we now know from many thousands of examples.”

On the contrary, he said, owning land gives people dignity, something to leave to their children and security.

Johann Rupert echoed Louw’s sentiments by emphasising the importance of owning property.

He implored recipients not to sell their title deeds nor use them as collateral when incurring any form of debt.

Rupert said he wished to inspire people to support the work done by the Free Market Foundation, and others. “When you’re lucky in life, as my wife and I and our kids have been, it isn’t difficult to share a bit of that luck,” he told the gathering.

Executive Mayor Gesie van Deventer said she realised when she became Mayor in 2016 there was a huge backlog in historical as well as new title deeds, and set out to rectify this by handing over as many as she could during her term. She said government cannot do it without partners such as the Ruperts and the FMF, due to the limited resources available for these measures.

Because of funding received from its partners, the municipality decided not to use a service provider to facilitate these the title deeds, according to Van Deventer. Altogether 26 people from Stellenbosch were trained to do the work instead.

“Today we give people homes, and not just a house,” said Van Deventer.

The 132 deeds handed over brings the total number of historical title deeds since 2016 to 530. In all, 890 title deeds for new projects have also been handed over since August 2016.

Many of the elated recipients told Eikestadnuus they experienced problems when they did not have the title deeds to their homes.

For Maria (64) and Nicolaas August (63), who moved into their house in Klapmuts in 1995, the anxiety caused by uncertainty was the worst.

“It was very unpleasant not having a title deed all those years,” Maria said. “You’re never sure is it your house so you can’t do things like draw up a will and testament.”

There were times where they also thought people would show up at the house saying they didn’t have the right to live there.

“It wasn’t a nice feeling, but now it is on black and white,” Maria said. “It’s our property, and it’s a very nice feeling after waiting all those years. It was worth the wait.”

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