From EyewitnessNews. Story by Nompumelelo Ngubeni
The South African government on Friday paid more than $5 million in compensation to six communities for land in the Kruger National Park taken from them under apartheid.
President Jacob Zuma said land compensation will restore the rights and dignity of those who have been dispossessed.
About 318,000 hectares of land was taken from hundreds families at the Kruger National Park after 1913 and 17 claims were filed against the park by locals in 1998. The communities compensated included three from Limpopo and three from Mpumalanga,
Zuma said land is paramount to the survival of South Africans.
“From land we derive our existence, our wealth, minerals, food and other essentials. From land we build our homes and without land we cannot exist,” he said.
Zuma said the game reserve as a national heritage site. But some people say money can never replace the ownership of land. Claimant Nelson Mona says he is not happy about the amount of compensation.
“In South Africa you have a concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few people. That is something we have to correct,” Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti said before a ceremony in Kruger National Park where Zuma handed over 84 million rand ($5.38 million US) in compensation to black communities evicted decades ago.
Experts estimate about 8 million hectares of farmland have been transferred to black owners since the end of apartheid — a third of the African National Congress’s 30 percent target.
The party has said it will speed up the process with a bill going through Parliament allowing the state to expropriate land without the owner’s consent.
Several black communities had land claims on the 2-million hectare Kruger Park. Communities were removed from the park after the Native Land Act of 1913, which consigned South Africa’s black majority to 13 percent of the country’s territory.
The government wants to keep Kruger Park intact. It’s a major tourist draw and home to many animal species, so the government policy is to compensate with cash instead of allowing them to resettle in the park’s boundaries.
Perry Sambo, a 63-year-old school teacher and claimants, said his parents were removed from Kruger before he was born.
“It was very difficult. Transport was very scarce and they did not get any assistance … some of their belongings they had to leave because they could not carry everything. They lost also cattle on the way that were eaten by lions,” he told Reuters.
The ANC, facing local elections in August, has promised to speed up plans to redistribute land which remain predominantly in white hands two decades after the end of apartheid.
Some economists and farming groups have said the proposals could hit investment and production at a time when South Africa is emerging from a major drought, pointing to the economic damage linked to farm seizures in neighboring Zimbabwe.
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