Jacob Zuma hands over land to Mala Mala claimants

2014-01-09 13:39

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Beneficiaries of an Mpumalanga commercial game reserve worth about R1 billion, the most expensive single land claim in the country, have pledged to keep the project sustainable.

The N’wandlamhlarhi Community Property Association (CPA) in Lillydale village near Hazyview got back ownership of the 13 184 1601 hectares worth R939.6 million (R71 250 per hectare) after a lengthy land claim process.

The CPA lodged claims on 21 properties consisting of 63 portions, measuring 65 000 hectares.

The land incorporates the Mala Mala Game Reserve, a big five property bordering the Kruger National Park, which has exclusive lodges that cost between R6 000 and R14 000 a night.

It is also close to British magnate and Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson’s luxurious and exclusive Ulusaba Private Game Reserve near Dumpries village.

President Jacob Zuma handed over the title deed to the CPA, which consists of 950 households.

CPA chairperson Perry Sambo said this land reform project would not go down like all the others.

“We won’t fail the government after spending so much money to buy us the land. We commit ourselves that we will make it sustainable and we have capable people to do the job,” Sambo said.

In the past financial year, the department of land reform and rural development spent R1.6 billion nationally to buy land to settle 549 claims and less than R1 billion was spent in the previous year on 252 claims.

The communities were forcefully removed from the land under apartheid laws from 1923.

Zuma said he was pleased that the handover coincided with the 20 years of South Africa’s democratic government rule.

“I’m pleased that the owners of Mala accepted the validity of the claim. However, there are those who still dispute land claims,” he said.

Zuma said that the land claimants lived in abject poverty and the restoration of the land would, therefore, bring hope for development.

He said the Mala Mala owners would rent the property for R700 000 a month until 2015 and they would be involved in a strategic partnership to transfer skills to the new beneficiaries.

“We must accept that this [settlement] has been part of smart negotiations and unprecedented agreement. This guarantees that unlike other projects, this one will never go wrong and will continue making money,” Zuma said.

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