Department not transparent – Wallmansthal community

Allegations have been levelled against officials of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), of deliberately holding up the settlement of the Wallmansthal land claim for personal gain.

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Simon Makola, secretary of the Wallmansthal Community Property Association (WCPA), accused officials of delaying the process to give opportunity to a mining company to gain mining rights on the land. Although the Wallmansthal land claim was successful in 2007, the community still have not received their title deeds. “Our claim was lodged about 19 years ago. However, it seems our rights are being overlooked and preference has been given to the recent mining laws,” said Makola.

He added that there had been no transparency on the DRDLR’s side and little communication with the WCPA. “We hear rumours flying in corridors but no one talks to us,” he said. Makola said the WCPA had a meeting scheduled with the chief land claims commissioner, Nomfundo Gobodo, to discuss the way forward on Wallmansthal. Sephaku Fluoride Limited (SepFluor), a wholly owned subsidiary of Sephaku Holdings, has apparently already prospected on the Wallmansthal land and intended to mine fluorspar.

This is used in the production of hydrogen fluoride and also in the processing of steel and aluminium.
At the time of this article being published, the company had yet to confirm their interest in Wallmansthal. But in
a letter to shareholders dated 18 March 2013, and seen by Farmer’s Weekly, Sepfluor CEO Alan Smith explained that “substantial and rapid progress has been made on the Wallmansthal project…

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“A recent drilling campaign has suggested that the deposit is larger than the initially anticipated 5 million tons, which was used as a non-Samrec resource estimate,” he wrote. “The application for a mining permit at Wallmansthal has been submitted and the company is in the process of completing a feasibility study.”The DRDLR’s Mthobeli Mxotwa denied that there was anything ‘sinister’ happening at the department. He said the DRDLR was working with the people of Wallmansthal to come up with a solution, while also trying to establish who the rightful owners are.

He said the department could not rush into handing over title deeds to anyone, but had to make sure the deeds went to the rightful owners. “If we issue title deeds to the wrong people, the very same people accusing us of delaying the process will accuse us of giving their land to the wrong people,” said Mxotwa. “There’ll be bloodshed if this is not done correctly.”

He also said the department was aware of the mining activities, but said the DRDLR had nothing to do with it. “The Department of Minerals was responsible for issuing prospecting and mining rights,” said Mxotwa. However, he added that DRDLR minister Gugile Nkwinti would meet with Susan Shabangu, Minister of Mineral Resources, to see how the people of Wallmansthal would benefit from mining activities on their land