Pretoria - The chief who has laid claim to vast tracks of land east and north of the city is not a traditional leader and has no right whatsoever to ask that the land be returned to his people
The startling revelation has been made by the residents of Ward 23 in Mamelodi East and the Ward-based Action committee in their objection to the Regional Land Claims Commission against Velaphi Victor Lekhuleni’s claim.
Lekhuleni, acting on behalf of his Mhwaduba of Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni community, has laid claim to the land, which includes thousands of homes, business and other amenities with a combined value running into billions of rand.
The land in question includes Mamelodi, Mahube Valley, Silverton, Montana Park, Derdepoort and the entire Pretoria east, as well as a section of the Magaliesberg mountain.
Lekhuleni said in the land claim papers that members of his community were forcefully removed from the land by the apartheid government between 1958 and 1960 and robbed of right to ownership, habitation, grazing, crop farming, burial sites and tradition.
But the objection, signed by ward councillor Thembi Sebata on behalf of the residents, stated: “We would like to register a strong objection to the land claim by ‘chief’ Victor Lekhuleni, of the Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni.”
She said Lekhuleni is a resident of Ward 23 in Mamelodi East and has been living in the same house since his birth. “(He) is not a chief and has never been a chief.”
In terms of the Restitution Act, any person affected by the publication of the notice of a claim may make representations to the regional land claims commissioner who has jurisdiction for the withdrawal or amendment of the notice.
The office of the regional land claims commissioner will convene the first stakeholders meeting to discuss the claim on March 7.
Sebata, speaking exclusively to the Pretoria News, said Lekhuleni’s mother, the late Buyeleni Lekhuleni, was the daughter of Sefoloshe Trekpass Lekhuleni who lived in the same house the chief is living in.
His biological father is “King George” Lukhele who never married his mother, the councillor said.
It was not known what happened to the biological father, but he was believed to have gone into exile, according to Sebata.
“Lekhuleni is his mother’s surname. Veli’s grandfather Trekpass Sefoloshe Lekhuleni was the owner and principal of the circumcision school for boys and girls in Mamelodi East, which he took over,” said Sebata.
“The grandfather was not a chief either. Veli was born and brought up where he presently lives; he has never lived anywhere else.
“He goes around wearing skins and portraying himself as a chief. He is an impostor. Veli is not a chief. Nor is he a representative of the Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni community that he claims to represent.”
Sebata said Lekhuleni’s mother was her friend and they grew up together. “She was never of royal blood.”
She said the matter was raised during a community meeting at Rethabile Community Hall in Mamelodi East, where people indicated the land claim was a perfect opportunity to set the record straight regarding Lekhuleni’s claim to royalty.
“I have asked him to his face why he went around claiming to be a chief and he never gave me an answer,” she said.
Sebata said the community was inviting a task team from the office of the land commissioner and anyone interested in going to Mamelodi East to obtain full information about the matter.
The Pretoria News brought the objection and its full content to the attention of Lekhuleni’s attorney, Vivien de Klerk, of De Klerk and Marais Inc. De Klerk said his client had been informed of the opposition to the land claim from Sebata.
However, he said traditional leadership transcended politics, and added that Lekhuleni would deal with all objections to his land claim at the relevant time and in the appropriate way.
The provincial Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs recognises only Inkosi Kekana, of Amandebele a Lebelo, and Amandebele a Nzuza’s Inkosi Mahlangu in Tshwane. The two chiefs attend council meetings.
Mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale said there were a number of claims by traditional leaders. “When they come, they first go through the process of recognition and listing in the Government Gazette by the MEC. Until then, we are unable to fully recognise them, but cannot pass judgment and declare them unworthy or otherwise, but equally they cannot take part in council activities,” he said.