History of the farm
Boschhoek Farm, (known locally as kwaHlathikhulu) is located in the uMzinyathi District in kwaZulu-Natal. The Farm was previously owned by the Sigweje people. The State now owns the land. Inkosi Didumndeni Kunene, who succeeded Inkosi Sigweje the previous leader, related the history of his people and their struggle to find land security in an interview conducted by the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA). This interview forms the basis of a report as well on AFRA’s findings on the history of evictions at Boschhoek Farm.
The Kunene people are originally from Swaziland. They left Swaziland during the 18th century following a war against Sigweje, who was their leader. They initially settled in Paulpietersberg, a small town established in 1888, located 72 km south of Piet Retief and 151 km north-east of Dundee in kwaZulu-Natal.
Some Kunene people remained in Paulpietersberg when Inkosi Sigweje moved to Pietermaritzburg, next to the Umsundusi River to a place called EmaSwazini. On his arrival he met Reverend Nelson, a Methodist Priest who persuaded him to purchase, the Boschhoek Farm in Waschbank, which was on auction at the time. Determined to help Inkosi Sigweje, the Priest came up with a tactic to help him attain the land as the people then had no means to buy this land. He hid Inkosi Sigweje and then announced that Inkosi Sigweje had been arrested for not paying tax and asked that each person contribute in order to secure bail for the Inkosi.
Unquestionably, the people sold their livestock to secure cash. After they had collected enough, Reverend Nelson took the cash and bought the land. By 1870, Inkosi Sigweje and his people acquired Boschhoek Farm.
Eventually, the Priest told the people the whole story. They were astonished yet grateful that with their contribution they had managed to buy their own land. Consequently, they moved to the farm and became the official landowners.
The community formed a trust, which consisted of the Inkosi as their head and seven trustee members. About the same time Inkosi Sigweje died. He was buried in Pietermaritzburg. His son Lubelo succeeded him.
The Kunene people settled in Boschhoek for almost 100 years until the passing of the Land Act of 1913. Consequently, the Sigweje group was removed soon after the state expropriated their land on 22 November 1966. The Inkosi at this time, Didumndeni Kunene (who was installed in 1967) attempted to mediate by revisiting the removal; however, his efforts were in vain. This is basically about the efforts he made to stop the removals
The removals took place between 20 August 1968 and 25 October the same year. This was devastating and the most traumatic experience the Kunene people had encountered throughout their history. The Inkosi’s kraal was the first to be bulldozed and the rest of the houses were destroyed as well.
The displaced people were transported to a new site called Vergelegen. Government trucks carried their belongings to this place. On arrival they were housed in tents and Inkosi Kunene had to stay in an old farmhouse which was decaying. The conditions here were very appalling; people died from diseases and their livestock died. Those members of families, who were migrant workers in big cities, namely Johannesburg and Durban, struggled to locate their families in this new place.
Inkosi Didumndeni Kunene died in September 1970 and the area was left undeveloped. The Boschhoek trustees attempted to fight the removals and restoration of their land rights but they failed. Furthermore, the landowners were not compensated and they were not given a title deed for this land. The trustees pursued the matter of land restoration further through a lawyer.
The Restitution of Land Rights Act
On 9 August 1993 the Boschhoek tenants designated trustees lodged a restitution claim for their land. Their claim was declined on 12 September 1994 because the Advisory Committee and Land Allocation (ACLA) alleged that the tribe was not subjected to prejudicial practices during the removal and compensatory land was provided after the removal. It later emerged that Boschhoek was acquired by the state.
Subsequent to the 1994 democratic elections when the Restitution of Land Rights Act (no.22 of 1994) came to pass, Inkosi SS Kunene, the new Inkosi installed subsequent to Inkosi Didumndeni‘s death, re-lodged the claim, on 16 April 1995, for the restoration of the Sigweje tribe’s land rights to Boschhoek.
A restitution commission of The Restitution of Land Rights (no 22 of 1994) was tasked to probe and equitably redress claims of individuals and communities dispossessed of their land on and after June 1913. The Commission accepted their claim as valid on 28 June 1996 and on 2 July 1996 it was gazetted in Notice No. 706 of 1996.
On 29 June 1999, at a meeting between the Department of Defence (DOD), the Restitution Commission, the National Department of Public Works (NDPW), Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) and the Boschhoek claimants, the DOD stated that it was not willing to give away Boschhoek because it was then a military base and of strategic importance to them.
Raper E. Peter (2004), New Dictionary of South African Place Names, p.302|