Durban - King Goodwill Zwelithini’s plans to build his eighth palace near Ulundi has upset local families who believe the land he has earmarked used to belong to their forefathers.

Last month, Zwelithini and his amakhosi launched South Africa’s biggest claim for land that was under control of the Zulus in 1838.

The multibillion-rand claim was planned and co-ordinated by the Ingonyama Trust. However, the current cut-off date for claims is 1913.

Trust chairman Judge Jerome Ngwenya said all of KZN once belonged to the Zulu Kingdom, so the trust would be claiming all the land in the province that did not belong to it. The trust is in charge of 2.8 million hectares in the province.

Msizeni Magwaza and Thokozani Ndawo told a community workshop on KwaZulu-Natal land claims at Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday that they were disappointed in Zwelithini and the government.

The two-day meeting, organised by UCT’s Centre for Law and Society, was attended by communities, communal property associations and other land claim organisations.

Some of those attending lived on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust and told the workshop how chiefs had little consideration for their welfare.

The majority felt that the government was more favourable to claims lodged by traditional leaders, especially under the Ingonyama Trust.

“There’s been very strong encouragement by the president (Jacob Zuma) for traditional leaders to claim back land,” said the Centre for Law and Society’s Mbongiseni Buthelezi.

“We logged the claim for the Magwaza land before December 1998, but the Regional Land Commission office keeps telling us they are researching the validity of our claims. Now, part of the land we want has been earmarked for the king’s palace,” said Magwaza.

Ndawo lodged his claim this year but said that his concern was not to “upset the king’s plans”.

“Yes, I do want our family land back, but I know we won’t get it back once the king builds his palace there. However, I feel the whole thing is malicious because the provincial land commission is already aware of the Magwaza claim, even if ours is yet to be processed.”

He was also upset by how Zwelithini had fenced in a dam where his cattle used to drink. Before being earmarked for the palace, the land was utilised by Amafa, the provincial heritage body.

Responding on behalf of the royal family, Prince Mbonisi Zulu said he had heard there were people claiming to own the land, but that none had spoken to the royal family.

“If they have lodged a claim for the land, then they should speak to the department they lodged the claim with so that they can get clarification on how they claim is going,” he said.

Provincial land commissioner Bheki Mbili could not comment as he was out of the province. “What I can tell you, generally speaking, is that just because the land has been claimed does not mean it can’t be used or sold.”

Mbili said that barring activities on claimed land would stifle the economy and “that’s why even farmers carry on farming even after someone has lodged a claim on the land they are farming on”.

Some KwaZulu-Natal communities feel the trust should assess how those living on its existing land were being treated by chiefs. They raised frustrations about conditions they were living under.

Simangele Nkosi, from Emachibini, in Mtubatuba, said their chief had “sold them off” to the Somkhele Coal Mine, resulting in them living in houses with cracked walls and under a cloud of dust.

“The mine contributes to zero development in the area and we fear for the future health of our children,” said Nkosi.

Judge Ngwenya said the trust had not received complaints from people living on the land.

“We encourage those who feel mistreated to come to the Ingoyama Trust with their complaints and I assure you we will follow up… even if it means suspending mining activities,” he said.

The Mercury