Durban - King Goodwill Zwelithini and his amakhosi are about to launch South Africa’s biggest land claim – for land that was under control of the Zulus in 1838.
The multibillion-rand claim is being planned and co-ordinated by the Ingonyama Trust, which could see it making claims on land in other provinces, City Press reported on Sunday.
However, currently the cut-off date for claims is 1913 and the Trust might be forced to settle for a smaller tract, reported City Press.
The chairman of the trust, Judge Jerome Ngwenya, said all of KwaZulu-Natal once belonged to the Zulu Kingdom, so they would be claiming all the land in the province that did not belong to the trust. The trust is currently in charge of 2.8 million hectares throughout the province.
Ngwenya said there were parts of neighbouring provinces the trust might need to claim as compensation, because some areas in KZN it was claiming had already been developed.
“We are not sure how much land we need to claim back, but we understand we may not be able to get back some of the land, as it is already developed, like Durban and Richards Bay,” he said.
The province’s Commission on Restitution of Land Rights could have its work cut out dealing with the claim, but Ngwenya said it was not their intention to uproot anyone.
The law states that the government could give claimants land that was an alternative equivalent in another province. This could see Ingonyama in charge of stretches of land all over the country.
In cases where alternative land was unavailable, Ngwenya said, they would be willing to accept financial compensation.
“There will be cases where others claim the same land as us. For example, where a chief was placed in charge of a certain area by the king. The chief’s family may also submit a land claim to the government, but as it stands we are working with our traditional leaders to compile one claim for the land that was taken from the Zulu nation.”
President Jacob Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill into law last Monday. According to the legislation, the cut-off date for claims is 1913, but this could still make the Ingonyama claim substantial. This new bill gives claimants five years, up to June 30, 2019, to lodge land claims.
City Press reported that the KZN Agricultural Union was concerned the claim would threaten investors’ confidence, already dampened by 16 years of unresolved land claims.
Chief executive Sandy la Marque was quoted as saying the union was worried about how the claim would be managed, as “this vacuum of information and understanding of where claims are has strained relations in the (agricultural) sector”.
KwaZulu-Natal has the second-highest number of unsettled claims with 1 900 of the 8 471 countrywide yet to be finalised.
The commission said 12 000 claims had been settled in KZN since the last deadline of December 31, 1998.
IFP spokesman Joshua Mazibuko said the party supported people’s rights to claim back land lost to colonisers.
“The right to claim back land is enshrined in the constitution, but the taking back of the land should be done through negotiations in terms of the willing buyer, willing seller model. Where such negotiations fail, then we support the state expropriating with compensation,” he said.
National Freedom Party MP Sibusiso Mncwabe did not believe it was practical for the trust to get the entire province back or even be fully compensated for land lost.
“It is in the early stages, so maybe we shouldn’t get carried away with the Ingonyama Trust’s alleged plans.
“However, I would think major consultations involving all stakeholders, from traditional to political leadership, need to take place before a final decision can be made,” said Mncwabe.
His sentiments were echoed by DA deputy provincial leader Francois Rodgers, who said going outside KZN’s borders to settle the claim would result in mayhem.
“The problem is that just getting financial compensation doesn’t solve the problem; people need to own the land. Besides, I don’t think the government can afford to pay Ingonyama for all the land they are planning to claim. It’s not practical.
“This whole thing makes one wonder why they never claimed this land before, in the previous land claims.”
There was no response from the ANC at the time of publication.