Landless accuse govt

2018-12-03 15:53
A rural village. (DSC/The Conversation)

A rural village. (DSC/The Conversation)

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The Land Affairs Department has been accused of giving out land to the politically connected to the detriment of the landless.

Families in the Emakhosini Valley, outside Ulundi, who have been waiting for decades for their land claims to be settled, are furious that the department, which in recent years has been purchasing farms from white owners, failed to distribute it to the claimants.

The department will be the main implementing agent should plans to expropriate land without compensation succeed.

Thobani Shezi (68), who says his grandparents were buried in the Dorsfontein farm that forms part of the land around the valley, has been waiting since the 90s for the department to allocate him the land that used to belong to his grandparents, before they were kicked out during the colonial period.

“I briefly lived on the farm but the owner asked me to leave when I decided to stop working for him — I now live in a shack here in Ulundi.

“When we heard that the department had bought the farm we were very excited because we thought they will finally give us back the land of our ancestors. However, we have since been told that they have given the land to a rich black person who is not even from here,” he said.

Shezi is part of the more than 30 families who are waiting to be given back the land of their ancestors after lodging claims in the 90s. Individuals who have been labour tenants on the farms have also lodged claims.

Thando Lushozi, a former farm worker, said even though most of the people who had been working at the farm still live there, they do not have title deeds for the land they currently occupy.

“When the Land Affairs Department bought the farm we were all happy as we thought they will transfer the land we currently occupy to us.

“However, we are increasingly becoming concerned as the department has not yet given us any title deeds three years after it bought the farm,” he said.

About seven Zulu kings are said to be buried within the area, with legendary Zulu king and renowned war strategist Shaka Zulu having fought some of his heroic battles in the area.

Some of the properties recently acquired by the department include a portion of the Dorsfontein farm, Konnings­kroon and Toeggerkry farms.

The organisation championing the rights of the affected communities, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), said the department’s top officials had turned the land restitution programme into a vehicle through which to enrich themselves, friends and family members.

“They even buy farms at inflated prices because they know that in the end they will benefit as individuals through kickbacks and other corrupt ways,” LPM secretary Msizeni Magwaza said.

Documents obtained by The Witness show that the department is in the process of transferring the Konningskroon farm, which it bought from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Despite numerous promises to respond to questions about the farms e-mailed two weeks ago, the department has not yet responded.

The ANC, which is currently pushing for the Constitution to be amended to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, says the changes will fast-track the transfer of land to the poor and those in rural areas.

The DA and other opposition parties are, however, of the view that corruption and incompetence within government, and not the Constitution, are to blame for the slow pace in land distribution.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  land
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