Stendahl Mission is said to have existed for about 124 years. A Minister of the Berlin Mission Society, Gueldenpfennig, acquired the mission land in 1860. By 1924 the land was subdivided and the major share was sold to Whites. A larger proportion of the land is now owned by Sun Valleys, an orange growing company.
It is alleged that the Berlin Mission Society retained the mission’s surrounding buildings until 1978, when it was purchased by Sun Valleys Estates for R20,000.00. The Society explained that during the course of the negotiations it was agreed that the Stendahl community would remain on the land, however this was a verbal agreement and therefore there was no legal document to support the claim. When Stendahl was officially acquired by Sun Valleys Estates, the people living on the mission technically became illegal squatters.
In 1984 the land was leased to J. De Bruin, a neighbouring farmer. On 18 August, in the same year, de Bruin issued eviction notices to all the families living at Stendahl. He then told them to leave his farm by 17 November 1984.
In a quest for legal intervention, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) officials (Isithebe, Mvelase and Bhengu) from Stendahl approached the Commissioner on behalf of the Stendahl community. Towards the end of 1984 on7 November the Commissioner met with Basil King, the Magistrate at Weenen, a village farm laid out in 1838.
Following this, the Commissioner agreed to apply for an extension of the eviction notices to 31 December 1984. The magistrate rejected his application under the pretext that it would be difficult to undertake the removals at this time because the migrant workers would return over Christmas season.
Ultimately the people were told that the removals would commence on 27 November 1984. They were also informed that Government trucks would transport them to Weenen.
Moreover, John Ngube, a former resident at Stendahl, stated that de Bruin, the neighbouring farmer, threatened to shoot them should they refuse to leave. The people urged the Commissioner to compensate them and he referred them to de Bruin. Farm workers were not entitled to any form of compensation for their houses. It was further alleged that according to the governing laws compensation was meant to be paid to people whose land had been expropriated.
The Commissioner and three other people went to inspect their properties and told them that they would not receive compensation. De Bruin assaulted some of their children in an effort to intensify the removals and get rid of them.
Government claimed that the removals were voluntary, contrary to what the Stendahl people said. They clearly explained that the removals were against their wishes as they were forced to move. They also believed they were driven off their ancestral land which was of cultural significance. In addition they were not pleased with their new place, Waaihoek, where they had been resettled. They were anxious that they would be moved again at some point because they were not entitled to the land.