Fury over King Goodwill Zwelithini’s land claim

2014-08-17 15:00

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Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini is preparing to build his eighth palace on the site of a land claim.

This has emerged as the king’s own massive land claim puts him on a collision course with landless communities whose existing claims date back nearly 15 years.

Claimants living on land administered by the ­Ingonyama Trust, which is driving the process on the ­Zulu monarch’s behalf, are preparing a court challenge over abuses of residents’ rights by traditional leaders and the trust.

Residents from Melmoth, Babanango, Richmond, ­Mtubatuba and Bishopstowe believe their claims will be undermined by Zwelithini’s.

They also argue that this process will give rights to the king but not the residents themselves. Zwelithini is claiming rights to a huge tract of urban and rural land including Durban, parts of the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State.

This week, representatives from these communities met with land advocacy groups and academics in ­Pietermaritzburg to respond to the reopening of the land restitution process.

Msizeni Magwaza and Thokozani Ndawo of the ­Magwaza community told the meeting that land they claimed as labour tenants in 1998 had now been ­earmarked for the building of the king’s newest palace near Ulundi.

“The regional land claims commission keeps telling us they are researching the validity of our claims. Now the land we want has been earmarked for the king’s palace,” said Magwaza.

Both said fences had already gone up on the land – which is administered by Amafa, ­KwaZulu-Natal’s heritage body – despite their unresolved claims.

The meeting resolved to investigate claims of abuse of tenure on Ingonyama Trust land “with a view to taking legal action against the trust”.

A report compiled after the meeting reads: “The law clearly states that the land is held in trust for the benefit of ordinary people, but the board acts as though traditional leaders are its sole beneficiaries.”

Judge Jerome Ngwenya, the chairperson of the trust, said communities with complaints against it should ­approach it.

But, he warned, “the traditional councils to which ­people are subject are the only legally recognised representatives of the community”.

He added: “The traditional council does not need their consultation or consent as each individual is a member of the community in whose name the traditional council acts.” According to him, each claim would be “assessed on its ­merit”.

KwaZulu-Natal land restitution commissioner Advocate Bheki Mbili said: “In terms of the ­reopened process, we are receiving claims and not processing them as we are giving priority to the claims lodged prior to 1998.

“We are hoping that if we can be allocated more funding in the short and medium term, we can do much more,” Mbili said.

According to him, “competing claims” would be ­assessed by determining what rights each party had at the time of dispossession.

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