NTANDO MAKHUBU

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THE massive Lekhuleni land claim, for almost 300 000 hectares of city land is still up for consideration by the land claims commission and yesterday the lawyers for the affected communities said they had strong grounds to support the claim.

The controversial land claim for all of Pretoria east plus Mamelodi,

Mahube Valley, Silverton, Montana Park and Dederpoort has been at the centre of arguments by communities, traditional leaders and Afriforum’s business wing Afribusiness, which has said the claim was illegitimate and a farce.

The land includes diplomatic properties, farms, businesses, schools, churches, residential areas, townships, squatter camps, hospitals, industrial zones and portions of the Magaliesberg mountain range, which are all part of the claim lodged by the late Victor Velaphi Lekhuleni towards the end of last year.

The traditional leader made the claim on behalf of the Bakgatla ba Lekhuleni, and he claimed to have been carrying out his duty as paramount chief and wanted the land given back to its rightful owners.

His people, he said, had been forcefully removed from the land in question during the apartheid regime between 1958 and 1960.

He had given assurance that he would not remove businesses from the land, but rather wanted to use land that was not being used to benefit the people.

Afriforum, through Afribusiness, had opposed the claim and launched their own investigation into it, coming up with a report in which they said too many claims were being made for the same tracts of land.

The land claim was taken through the processes by the land claims commissioner, who at the end of November published intention to withdraw the claim pending additional evidence.

Afribusiness’s interpretation of the notice in a government was that the claim had been thrown out, for which they claimed victory. They said the rejection was due to the pressure they had exerted and on the findings of their investigation.

The office of the regional land claims commissioner this week issued a statement saying the land claim had not been de-registered.

“It is still exists on our records, and the published gazette notices are still valid and binding to all landowners,” spokeswoman Kamogelo Gaokgwathe said.

She also stressed on the fact that the publication of the November notice was not as a result of pressure from any organisation or objections received from land owners on affected properties of the land claim.

Lekhuleni’s lawyer Vivian de Klerk yesterday explained that the claim was still in the books: “The government gazette only sets out the intention to withdraw if no further presentations to support the claim are made.”

The commissioner gave a 60 day period in which presentations could be made, and his team was well prepared to make the required submissions and were assured of victory.

He said one area of contention which had come out of the validation process was the legitimacy of the communities behind the claim.

He said traditional leaders had given evidence on Lekhuleni’s leadership and the legitimacy of the communities in question.

“Their legitimacy was being questioned and we have evidence that they are traditional communities,” he said.

The team’s presentations also included evidence that Lekhuleni had made the claim on behalf of the communities and therefore had power of attorney to do so.

De Klerk said that if the commissioner insisted on de-gazzeting the claim he would be forced to turn to the courts.

“We have been there two times already and they lost their case. They would lose again this time if we went back,” he said.

Claims that the claim had been thrown out were illegitimate and premature, he said.

His clients were not afraid to go to court: “They will do all they have to to protect their rights.” The commissioner was open to receive presentations until the end of January, and the Lekhuleni team wad determined to have their presentations in by then.