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Chief in huge land claim

18/02/2015 Chief Victor Velaphi Lekhuleni of Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni who is claiming large tracts of land in the city. Picture: Phill Magakoe

18/02/2015 Chief Victor Velaphi Lekhuleni of Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni who is claiming large tracts of land in the city. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Published Feb 19, 2015

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Pretoria - He has laid claim to vast tracts of land in the capital – including Mamelodi, Mahube Valley, Silverton, Montana Park, Derdepoort and the entire Pretoria east – but Chief Velaphi Victor Lekhuleni will not take people’s businesses, homes and other amenities.

Should his land claim turn out to be valid and is granted, the Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni traditional leader wants to only keep undeveloped land, where restitution is possible.

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Most important, he will keep a section of the Magaliesberg, between the farms Nooitgedacht and Pienaarspoort.

This undeveloped land is very close to his heart: it is here where the Lekhuleni chiefs have held their annual initiation school for both boys and girls since the 1940s. If the land is given back to his people, Lekhuleni wants to keep the mountain section as well.

Lekhuleni, on behalf of the Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni community, wants the land to be returned to his people, its rightful owners.

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His attorney, Vivien de Klerk, of De Klerk & Marais Inc, said the chief had pleaded for calm after noting people were getting anxious since the claim was published in the Government Gazette just more than two weeks ago. “In instances such as these, the government most naturally steps in and settles the matter in the best interest of the bigger society,” De Klerk said.

In terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, a land claim is directed at the State and not individuals or companies.

Possible settlement is restoration, alternative land, financial compensation, or a combination.

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Lekhuleni, who lives in Mamelodi, lodged the claim in October 1996.

In the claim form, Lekhuleni pointed out members of the Mhwaduba of Bakgatla Ba Lekhuleni community were forcefully removed from their tribal land.

Lekhuleni said the forced removals of 1958 to 1960 robbed them of the right to land ownership, habitation, grazing, crop farming, burial sites and tradition.

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Following the removals, some of the Lekhuleni people settled in Mamelodi, Pienaarspoort, Silverton, as well as other parts of Gauteng. Thousands of the Lekhuleni people live in Mamelodi under the leadership of their chief.

Lekhuleni argued the claim, thought to be one the biggest in democratic South Africa, was seeking to redress the restitution of the rights the community was stripped of.

Lekhuleni wants it to be returned to his people because it has a significant cultural value to them.

The land in question consists of 14 farms located east and north-east of the city, with developed and undeveloped properties.

It is worth billions of rand.

The Restitution of Land Rights Act entitles a person or community dispossessed of a right in land after June 19, 1913, as a result of past discriminatory laws and practices, to restoration of that right or equitable redress. The original cut-off date for lodging a land claim was December 31 in 1998, and has been extended to the end of June 2019.

It had been a long road for Lekhuleni, who alleged he lodged a land claim before the initial cut-off date.

But during the investigations, the Regional Land Claims Commissioner found it to be non-compliant in terms of the legislation as there were no records of such a claim.

In 2010, Lekhuleni took the commission to the Land Claims Court, which found the claim to be properly lodged and ordered that it be dealt with.

After further investigations, the commission upheld its decisions that the claim was never lodged.

The chief never threw in the towel and approached the court again, which noted that there was a 1 percent arguable case, and that the claim met the minimum requirements for acceptance.

The office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner will convene the first stakeholder meeting to discuss the Lekhuleni land claim on March 7.

The meeting will be open to all stakeholders, including land owners as they appeared in the Government Gazette. Interested parties were given 60 days from February 6 to submit representations.

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Pretoria News

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