Disputes among land reform claimants and beneficiaries should be referred to existing formal land reform processes for arbitration, instead of parties resorting to violence.
This was according to a statement issued by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development after a recent attack in which a land reform farm manager was thrown into a fire in KwaZulu-Natal’s Mtwalume area.
The victim was allegedly assaulted by four unknown assailants, and managed to put the fire out by rolling on the ground. He was taken to hospital for treatment.
The portfolio committee’s statement alleged that the attack on the farm manager was linked to divisions within the Mathulini Communal Property Association (MCPA) that was allocated a 7 500ha sugar cane farm as part of the association’s land restitution claims.
According to media reports, IFP MP, Inkosi Bhekizizwe Luthuli said that former leaders and members of the MCPA had been removed from their positions for allegedly doing “wrong things”.
Luthuli said that representatives of this aggrieved faction were believed to have been behind the attack on the farm manager.
Luthuli added that the MCPA had written to Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, around two weeks ago to request her urgent intervention in the dispute. However, the minister had not yet responded.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, called on the MCPA and other land reform claimants and beneficiaries who were experiencing conflict amongst themselves to avail themselves of “sufficient provisions in the land reform process to deal with disputes and counterclaims”, instead of resorting to violent conflict.
“Such claims still have full recourse to procedural justice and other legal provisions. We cannot condone acts of criminality as these do not advance the process of land reform or restitution. Such vile acts are not only uncalled for, but also further diminish the integrity of claims or counterclaims,” Mandela said.
The portfolio committee’s statement also said that Parliament had amended the Communal Property Associations Act to allow government departments to intervene in internal conflicts within these associations.
“The committee urges the [department] to ensure that [the] Mathulini Communal Property Association is included as a priority matter and [for assistance] to resolve these issues,” the portfolio committee statement said.
Captain Nqobile Gwala, spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal South African Police Service (SAPS), said that a case of attempted murder was currently being investigated by the SAPS.