Communities now own 75% of St Lucia Wetland Park

Land claims on the world heritage site, Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (GSLWP) in northern Zululand, are being settled quickly and amicably between affected parties.

The most recent land ownership transfer agreement in the park means that 75% of its total 220 000ha now belongs to communities in the region. The most recent successful land claimants were 1 550 households from the Sokhulu, Mnqobokazi, KwaJobe, Nsinde and Mdletshe communities neighbouring the uMkhuze Game Reserve section of the GSLWP. These communities were awarded title to 12 000ha of the park, but agreed to leave the land under existing formal conservation practices.

“These recent successful land claimants will be compensated R14,5 million, with a further R52 million being paid by government to the Landowner Trust as development grants,” said Andrew Zaloumis, chief executive officer of the GSLWP. “As mandatory partners, claimants now have preference in activities like employment and training, sharing of gate revenues, ownership of tourism developments and natural resource harvesting.”

Speaking at the signing of the land transfer agreements, minister of environmental affairs and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said that government was committed to fulfilling its national and international obligations to protect SA’s natural assets, while also providing a framework for economic upliftment and poverty alleviation. “There are still many challenges. Among them is ensuring that progress continues towards putting an end to the paradox of poverty amid the abundance of nature,” Zaloumis said. Restitution and sustainable settlement of land claims are key to this.”
Meanwhile, GSLWP management announced that the park would, as from 1 November, be officially named the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. – Lloyd Phillips