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Land Affairs giving out land to the politically connected, say claimants

  • 3 Dec 2018
  • The Witness
  • CLIVE NDOU
  • ­ clive.ndou@witness.co.za

Landless accuse govt

Land Affairs giving out land to the politically connected, say claimants

THE ­Land­ Affairs­ Department­ has ­been accused ­of­ giving ­out­ land ­to­ the ­politically ­connected­ to the­ detriment­ of ­the landless.

Families­ in­ the­ Emakhosini­ Valley,outside­ Ulundi,­who ­have­ been­ waiting for­ decades ­for­ their ­land­ claims ­to ­be settled, ­are ­furious ­that ­the ­department, which­ in ­recent­ years ­has ­been ­purchasing ­farms­ from­ white­owners, ­failed ­to distribute­ it­ to­ the­ claimants.

The­ department­ will­ be ­the ­main ­implementing ­agent ­should ­plans ­to ­expropriate­ land ­without­compensation ­succeed.

Thobani­ Shezi­ (68),­ who­ says­ his grandparents­ were ­buried­ in­ the ­Dorsfontein­ farm­ that ­forms ­part­ of ­the land around ­the ­valley,­ has­ been ­waiting ­since the ­90s ­for­ the ­department ­to ­allocate him­ the ­land­ that ­used­ to ­belong ­to ­his grandparents,­ before­ they­ were­ kicked out­ during­ the­ colonial ­period.

“I­ briefly ­lived ­on­ the­ farm ­but ­the owner ­asked­ me­ to ­leave ­when ­I ­decided to ­stop ­working ­for ­him­ ­I ­now live in ­a ­shack ­here ­in ­Ulundi.

“When­we­heard­that­the­departmenthad­bought­the­farm­we­were­very­excited­because­we­thought­they­will­finallygive­us­back­the­land­of­our­ancestors.However,­we­have­since­been­told­thatthey­have­given­the­land­to­a­rich­blackperson­who­is­not­even­from­here,”­hesaid.

Shezi­ is ­part­ of ­the ­more ­than­ 30 ­families ­who­ are ­waiting ­to ­be­ given ­back ­the land­ of­ their­ ancestors­ after­ lodging claims ­in­ the ­90s.­Individuals ­who ­have been­ labour ­tenants ­on ­the ­farms­ have also ­lodged ­claims.

Thando ­Lushozi, ­a ­former ­farm­worker, ­said ­even ­though ­most ­of ­the ­people who ­had ­been ­working ­at­ the farm­ still live ­there, ­they ­do ­not ­have ­title ­deeds for ­the ­land­ they ­currently­ occupy.

“When ­the ­Land ­Affairs ­Department bought ­the ­farm ­we ­were ­all ­happy ­as we­ thought­ they­ will­ transfer­ the­ landwe­currently­occupy­to­us.

“However,­ we ­are ­increasingly ­becoming­ concerned­ as ­the ­department­ has ­not yet ­given ­us ­any ­title deeds­ three ­years after ­it­ bought ­the ­farm, ”­he­ said.

About­ seven ­Zulu ­kings­ are ­said­ to ­be buried­ within ­the ­area, ­with ­ legendary Zulu ­king ­and­ renowned ­war strategist Shaka­ Zulu­ having­ fought­ some­ of­ his heroic­ battles ­in ­the ­area.

Some­ of­ the­ properties­ recently­ acquired­ by ­the ­department­ include­ a­ portion­ of ­the ­Dorsfontein farm,­ Konnings kroon ­and­ Toeggerkry ­farms.

The­ organisation­ championing­ the rights ­of ­the ­affected ­communities,­ the Landless­ People’s­ Movement­ (LPM),said­ the­ department’s ­top ­officials ­had turned ­the ­land ­restitution­ programme into­ a­ vehicle ­through which ­to­ enrich themselves,­ friends­ and­ family­ members.

“They ­even ­buy­ farms ­at ­inflated ­prices ­because ­they ­know ­that ­in ­the ­end they­ will­ benefit­ as ­individuals through kick backs ­and­ other­ corrupt­ways,”­LP Msecretary ­Msizeni ­Magwaza­ said.

Documents­ obtained­ by­The Witness show­ that­ the ­department ­is­ in ­the­ process ­of­ transferring ­the Konningskroon farm,­ which­ it­ bought­ from­ Ezemvelo KZN­ Wildlife,­ to­ Zulu­ King­ Goodwill Zwelithini.

Despite­ numerous­ promises­ to­ respondto­ questions­ about­ the­ farmse-mailed­two­weeks­ago,­the­departmenthas­not­yet­responded.

The­ ANC,­which ­is­ currently ­pushing for­ the­ Constitution­ to ­be ­amended­ to allow­ for­ the­ expropriation­ of land ­without ­compensation, ­says ­the­ changes­ will fast-track­ the ­transfer ­of­ land ­to ­the ­poor and ­those ­in rural ­areas.

The­ DA­ and ­other ­opposition ­parties are,­ however,­ of ­the ­view­ that­ corruption and­ incompetence­ within­ government, and­ not­ the ­Constitution, ­are ­to ­blame for­ the­ slow­ pace­ in­ land­ distribution.