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Durban - King Goodwill Zwelithini has taken President Jacob Zuma’s decision to reopen land claims a step further by revealing that he and the province’s traditional leaders will launch a combined land claim.
The king was speaking during the opening of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
He said the first land claims, which ended in 1998, did not benefit his people. There were still traditional leaders with no land rights living on white-owned farms, he said.
Zuma announced during his State of the Nation address that the government would reopen the land claims process for another five years, which would end in 2018.
“We have agreed with the amakhosi (traditional leaders) in KwaZulu-Natal that we will submit one claim for the land that was taken from us as the Zulu nation.
“If we succeed, we will then distribute the land fairly,” the king said.
He said he had tasked the Ingonyama Trust with providing traditional leaders with legal assistance to help them launch the claims. The Ingonyama Trust is in charge of about 2.8 million hectares throughout the province.
“Land under the Ingonyama Trust is but a fraction of the land that used to belong to us in the first place,” he said.
The king said the previous land claims were hijacked by unscrupulous individuals who formed fake trusts to govern the claimed land on behalf of the beneficiaries.
“The land was given to individuals because they understood English well enough to establish community trusts. These individuals were found to be con-artists who deceived communities by putting forward their family members (wives and children) as members of the trust.
“Later, white farmers came back to pay money and continue to lease the same land,” he said.
Ingonyama Trust head Judge Jerome Ngwenya said the trustees were studying the new land claims law to establish if there were limitations to claiming land taken between 1884 and 1913 in the province.
“If the law does not give us limitations we will claim all the land taken from the king. Obviously we cannot get all of it, as some land has been turned into cities and towns. In that case financial compensation would be another option,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union president Mike Black raised concerns about reopening claims.
“There are thousands of restitutions under way, which will now be delayed for another five years,” he said.
Meanwhile, the king warned that if political violence continued in KZN, the situation could escalate to genocide similar to Rwanda.
“I urge you to protect the agreement that was reached in 1994 by refusing to be used in fighting political battles because, in the end, it is not your leaders who lose their loved ones, but it is you as the public,” he said.