Brickles family get their land back

The Brickles family on the land, behind Heathfield Primary School, which they successfully reclaimed after more than 80 years.

Fond memories of life on the land that was once their home flooded the minds of the Brickles family members when their land claim was at long last finalised after two and half decades.

The Brickles family was dispossessed of their land in Waterford Road, Elfindale, under the apartheid-era Group Areas Act, in 1938.

The new owners, known as the Punt Farmers, charged the family rent to continue occupying the land, which they diligently paid and continued to farm with vegetable and livestock as well as running a businesses from the property, which made them self-sustainable. However, in the early 1970s the family were evicted from their homes and three houses were demolished.

Eric Brickles, grandson of the original land owner, Walter Brickles who was about 25 at the time, said they had been evicted and their home demolished to make way for a road that was to have been built by the City council.

As the years went on Mr Brickles’ father encouraged his sons to become successful in order to buy the land back.

Eric Brickles was emotional on the day of the handover.

“My father would say ‘son one day when you have money you have to buy back our property’ and I always strived to make that a reality,” said Mr Brickles. “Meanwhile the land was just lying there open, since that time until now.”

In 1997 Mr Brickles and his older brother registered a claim to the land reform programme which was started in 1994 and 25 years later their land was finally returned – despite attempts by the council to pay the family for the property, which is about 5 000 square metres.

“We were offered something ridiculous like R40 000 and later R240 000. It was obviously too little and we opted to rather have the property handed back to us.”

Mr Brickles worked with his older brother to make sure the claim was successful, but it was a taxing endeavour – both physically and financially, he said.

When his oldest brother died, he struggled on but eventually had to hand the baton over to his youngest son. “I retired and I wasn’t by the means anymore, both financially and physically, and then my son Gregory took over. Four of my other brothers died while waiting for the claim to come to fruition.”

Bahia Abrahams, sister of Eric Brickles, points out where their homes were built before they were demolished.

On the day of the handover an emotional Mr Brickles said the family finally had an opportunity to be united again. “The Brickles name was strong and we were a well-known family but now we are scattered all over and many of us don’t even know each other. The land means we will be able to draw all the Brickles’ together again like it was when we were all living on the farm.”

The family plan to build a housing development on the land and to financially support the broader family, especially those who have fallen on hard times.

Gregory Brickles said his family was delighted that their land has been returned to them. “After many years, we are grateful and we look forward to the future.”

Malusi Booi, the City’s Mayco member for human settlements, said it was “a true honour” for the City to celebrate the restitution of the land with the Brickles family.

“We remain committed to enabling redress and to finalising all land claims as quickly as possible so that we give land back to the rightful owners,” he said.

“On behalf of the City, we wish the claimants all the best with their plans and we look forward to seeing them in the future.”

Councillor Albert Ntsodo, Eric Brickles, Malusi Booi and councillor Kevin Southgate.