While the CEO of the Gongolo Wildlife Reserve (GWR) said that he had a letter from the KZN Regional Land Claim Commissioner (RLCC)indicating that the claim was to be de-gazetted soon, the KZN RLCC said that the various claims on the affected land will continue to be processed as per the prescripts of the Restitution of Land Rights Act 22 of 1994.
Nick Green, CEO of the GWR, which covers 32 000ha in the Estcourt/Mooi River areas of KZN, said that the letter from RLCC Lebjane Maphutha stated that the claims by the AmaChunu and AbaThembu communities on 24 000ha of GWR would be de-gazetted because it had been found that they did not form part of the original claim. Green added that getting the GWR claim resolved had cost the reserve, owned by various shareholders, R12 million in direct costs and hundreds of millions of rand in lost opportunities.
“The development project for Gongolo Wildlife Reserve was designed around sustainable future land-use based on government’s principles for land reform,” said Green. “But we’ve been denied the use of this land, which we purchased in 2000, for this reason. Local communities were to be part of the development plan, becoming beneficiaries of the 2 500 direct jobs that were to be created.”
Meanwhile, the KZN RLCC denied any knowledge of reports that the land claim would be de-gazetted. “We accept that the process of settling claims is long, but we are making good progress in this claim,” said KZN RLCC spokesperson Nokuthokoza Ndlela. “In fact there are some portions of land that have been restituted to this community. All parties are advised to be patient and to co-operate with the commission in its quest to settle their land claim.”
This appears to contradict Green’s version of events based on the Maphutha letter that the GWR CEO quoted excerpts from to Farmer’s Weekly. “We’ve been told that once the restitution claim is de-gazetted, the land will be purchased from us by 1 May 2013 under the land redistribution process. The land will then be held by the department of land reform and a partnership is proposed between the Gongolo Wildlife Reserve’s management and the department where the reserve will be sustainably managed into the future on behalf of the land redistribution beneficiaries,” said Green.
The KZN RLCC said that problems associated with finalising the GWR claim included some affected landowners objecting to the claim’s validity, others rejecting the value of the purchase price and there being overlapping claims. “To settle claims with overlapping rights is in itself time-consuming,” said Ndlela. The GWR said its attorneys were currently pushing to have the restitution claim formally de-gazetted as soon as possible.