Zuma: On Mala Mala land claim; settlement

 Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the handing over of land to the N’wandlamhlarhi Community Property Owners Association, Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga Province

It is with a great sense of pride that I stand here today to celebrate with you, the members of the N’wandlamhlarhi Community Property Association and indeed with all South Africans, this milestone that has been achieved in securing the settlement of this land claim.

This important occasion takes place just a day after the 102nd anniversary of the African National Congress, the liberation movement that made it its mission to fight for the return of the land to the dispossessed masses of our people.

The 1913 Land Act and many other apartheid laws made it legal to take away land from the indigenous African people.

Government, informed by the Constitution of the land and the Freedom Charter on which the Constitution is based, made it its mission since 1994, to restore land that was taken away from the people in the most cruel and unjust manner in many instances.

You will recall what Sol Plaatje said in 1913 when the law was passed. He said the African woke up and found himself a pariah in the land of their birth.

The importance of land was best explained by former ANC President AB Xuma when he said in his 1941 Presidential address to the ANC conference.

“The fundamental basis of all wealth and power is the ownership and acquisition of freehold title to land.

“From land, we derive our existence. We derive our wealth in minerals, food, and other essentials. On land we build our homes. Without land we cannot exist. To all men of whatever race or colour land, therefore, is essential for their wealth, prosperity, and health. Without land-rights any race will be doomed to poverty, destitution, ill-health and lack of all life`s essentials”.

And in 1919, ANC President Sefako Makgatho, addressing an ANC conference said the following; “in all countries and among all nations worthy of the name of a free people, these common rights to the purchase and sale of land are recognised as resting upon the elementary principles of justice and humanity, which are the heritage of a free people”.

The young democracy is thus following the directives of our forebears when we restore the land to rightful owners.

Sections 25 (5) to (7) of our Constitution requires the state to embark on a land reform programme to address the legacy of colonial and apartheid land dispossessions.

Land Reform is made up of four elements, land restitution, land redistribution, land tenure reform, and development. Land Reform is an important part of national reconciliation and nation building.

The Restitution of Land Rights Act, which gives effect to the right to restitution in section 25 (7) of the Constitution, provides for restitution which can take place through the restoration of land rights, provision of alternative state owned land, payment of financial compensation or a combination of these remedies.

The Mhlanganisweni Community land claim was first lodged by Mr. Z.L. Mhlongo and twenty (20) others in their respective capacity as individuals and representatives of their own communities.

The claimants currently fall within the jurisdiction of two tribal authorities, namely, Ama-Shangane and Jongilanga Traditional Authorities.

The actual number of households and the overall total number of beneficiaries to this restitution project on properties owned by Mala Mala Game Ranch (Pty) Ltd is estimated to be 960 and 5760 beneficiaries.

As you are aware, 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 the high levels of poverty.

As the Mala Mala claimants you lodged claims against twenty one (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.

Negotiations for the settlement of the claim on the land comprising the Mala Mala Game Reserve began in earnest in May 2008 when an initial formal offer was made for the acquisition of the 12 855 hectares.

After lengthy negotiations, the legal representatives of the land owners considered a settlement amount of R 939,360,000, close to a billion rand for the purchase of the land in respect of the 13,184 hectares.

These properties are fully utilised as game land.

We are very happy that this claim has been concluded and that land is being handed over today.

It is being handed over during a year in which we mark 20 years of freedom and democracy in our country. The restoration of land to rightful owners is one of the biggest responsibilities you gave the democratic government.

We have made a lot of progress, but work still continues.

I am pleased to note that the current landowners of the Mala Mala land have accepted the validity of the claim and have not declared any dispute about the merits of the claim.

However it must be noted that there are some who seek to challenge claims to land despite the validity of these claims.

We are aware that the majority of claimants are currently living in and around the Lillydale area which is bordering the claimed land. The conditions there are less than favourable as there is inadequate infrastructure development, and most of the households live in abject poverty. There are also high levels of unemployment. The success of this claim therefore brings hope to this community.

I have noted that there have been further developments which include that an agreement was reached in which the Mala Mala Game Reserve owners will be allowed a transitional period  that will expire on the 31 January 2015 which provides for a monthly occupational rental amount of R700 000, in order to allow enough time on the second phase negotiations around the co-management agreement.

In addition they  have committed to contribute all movable assets needed to run the business, as well as goodwill and the company brand estimated to be valued at R38 million, as part of their commitment to the co-management as current business owners.

The appointment of a strategic partner has been done looking at different variables such as management skills, knowledge of the industry in which the business is currently operating, and the contribution to be invested into the business as a commitment to its sustainability.  In terms of the exit strategy capacity building and technical support must be an integral part of the Parties’ Agreement.

The primary requirement of this capacity building exercise is to develop the skills of the Community to manage the farms more efficiently, even after the partnership has been terminated.

It should be noted that the role of the Commission in Restitution of Land Rights, in terms of finalizing the remaining Sabie Sand Land Claim against the other outstanding 51 816 ha, of land is expedited.

I wish to congratulate The N’wandlamhlarhi Community Property Association as you receive your title deed today.

May you enjoy much prosperity and success from this powerful resource, and may you ensure that it remains productive.

I thank you.



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