‘Mala Mala land claim price is not exorbitant’

The settlement price of close to R1 billion in the Mala Mala Game Reserve land claim is fair. This conclusion can be read from statements made by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti.

Nkwinti made the statement yesterday, a day before President Jacob Zuma was due to hand over the land to the N’wandlamhlarhi Community Property Association. The association is made up of communities who have claimed vast amounts of land including the 13182 hectares that makes the Mala Mala game reserve around the Kruger National Park in the Mpumalanga province.

Following a lengthy land claim process a deal was reached with the Mala Mala land owners with a settlement amount of R939,360,000. This equates to R71,250 per hectare when initially there was talk of the land claiming community only willing to pay more than half of that price.

Nkwinti said “The total land value appears to be exorbitant, however it should be noted that this is prime game land that were attested to by expert witnesses in Court.”

A statement issued by the presidency yesterday announced that Zuma will today hand over land to the N’wandlamhlarhi  Community Property Association. The claimed land falls within the Bushbuckridge Municipality under the Ehlanzeni District, one of the prioritized districts by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform due to high levels of poverty.

This process which forms part of government’s efforts to accelerate land reform programmes will benefit 960 households.

The Mala Mala claimants had lodged claims against 21 properties consisting of 63 portions, measuring 65,000 hectares as the total extent. The claimed land includes the Mala Mala Game Reserve, which is currently operating as an internationally renowned game farm and ecotourism destination.

The presidency statement said the restitution will restore the land rights lost to the Mala Mala community and will further assist with the creation of jobs, opportunity for further education as well as general development of the area.

The settlement price on the Mala Mala land has raised eyebrows with some observers saying, the price of R939,360,000 was too high. The case has come to display the trickiness of land redistributuion in South Africa via the willing seller willing buyer principle. Some groups even within the governing party, the ANC, have been pushing for the relaxation of the willing buyer willing seller principle in order to speed up land redistribution.

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