March 23, 2004

SOUTH AFRICA: Major land restitution in KwaZulu-Natal

In what will go down as the largest land restitution to be settled in KwaZulu-Natal, Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza handed over more than 18.000 hectares of land to the Manzengwenya residents at an event in Sodwana Bay, on the north coast.

The settlement of the Manzengwenya claim finally puts to rest the long wait for justice as this community had suffered more than four decades to have their land rights restored to them. The Manzengwenya people were forcefully removed from their land after the area was proclaimed as forestry land in terms of the Forestry Act of 1941 in 1960 and 1964. This proclamation resulted in the forceful removals of 415 African households who occupied the land from time immemorial. The removals eroded the dignity of the community and their economic independence.

However, the Restitution Act No 22 of 1994 provided a framework for redressing the land dispossession of the past by allowing all the communities and individuals who were dispossessed of their land after 19 June 1913 to lodge land claims against the State that sanctioned the evictions.

KwaZulu-Natal Land Claims Commission spokesperson Zwelihle Memela said the Manzengwenya community took advantage of the offer by the State and registered their land claim before the cut off date of 31 December 1998. "The State has committed R9.8 million towards the settlement of this claim. The settlement package that the Land Claims Commission has devised will see the restoration of a community title deed to the originally dispossessed community. "The settlement agreement further states that there will be no physical occupation in the 12.000 ha of land currently under timber plantation. This will enable further transactions with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in a form of long-term lease agreement. The rentals will be channelled to a Community Trust for the benefit of the entire community. "The remaining 5.000 ha not under timber plantation has been earmarked for agriculture purposes," said Mr Memela.

Community representative Josiah Tembe described the land settlement as a victory for the community. "We have waited for a long time for this occasion and today we feel as if we have been born again," he said. Mr Memela said the KwaZulu-Natal Land Claims Commission would continue to provide the necessary assistance to this community to ensure that the funds committed by the State were used sustainably for the development of the community as a whole. (Bua News, Pretoria)


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