Settlement in Lohatla land claim
Johannesburg - The rural development department has found alternative land to settle some of the communities who lodged a claim to thousands of hectares currently being used as a military training centre, Business Day reported on Tuesday.
After almost a decade of unsuccessful court battles by the Maremane and the Gatlhose communities to get the Lohatla Battle School evicted from their ancestral land in the Northern Cape, the department has negotiated a settlement.
The Gatlhose community opted for a combination of financial compensation, alternative land for agricultural purposes, housing development and development of schools and clinics.
Out of their 1 018 households, 638 chose financial compensation and 380 opted for resettlement.
At a ceremony on Sunday to mark the resolution, where residents received their cheques, Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Thulas Nxesi said the settlement of the first phase of the Gatlhose community's claim of financial compensation of R35.5m had been approved.
For the claimants who opted for land restoration, the department transferred R59.5m to the Koikanyang Trust account for the purchase of alternative land.
The department had identified 17 000ha of land for the full and the final award for the resolution of their claim, Nxesi said.
In 2002 the Land Claims Court declared that the restoration of the land was not feasible. The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the ruling that the Gatlhose community was not entitled to restoration of the original land.
This was because the court believed it would not be possible to resettle the communities at the Lohatla Battle School, as the land was contaminated with unexploded ordinance. It would have been costly to clear and almost impossible to ensure it was safe for settlement.
According to the department, the Maremanes lost 12 million hectares of their land, and the Gatlhoses 49.8 million hectares, in what was then known as the Maremane-Gatlhose Native Reserve, located at the Tsantsabane local municipality in the Siyanda District.