Farmers bow down to pressure

The Makgoba community is claiming 200 Magoebaskloof fruit estates worth about R3 billion. The farms generate about R500 million a year while R75 million comes from tourism. “We are speaking to these farmers and, parallel to that, state land is going to be transferred to these communities,” said Limpopo land claims commissioner Mashile Mokono. He confirmed that some landowners had objected but said they had not challenged the claim in court. “We will negotiate with everybody and if there is no progress we will approach [land affairs and agriculture minister Thoko Didiza] to expropriate the properties,” he said. The 41 farms that will be sold to the land claims commission cover about 35 000 hectares of land and produce export-quality citrus, mangoes, bananas, litchis and kiwi fruit. Mokono said the state land included 1 000 hectares of tea plantations as well as 7 000 hectares of forestry. Minister Didiza has already given her consent for the tea plantations to be given to the Makgoba community. The tea land was leased by Sapekoe (Pty) Ltd from government since 1963. Mokono said the 99-year lease had been terminated, but Sapekoe won a court case to remove its assets such as pumps from the farm. He said the commission would also ask the department of water affairs and forestry ministry to start negotiating with Komatiland for the transfer of timber plantations. In addition, Trade and Investment Limpopo would be approached to determine how much the affected farms in Magoebaskloof were contributing to the province’s economy. “Such information will help us with the final valuation of the land,” the commissioner said. The Makgoba community was removed from the land from 1924 until 1974. The first group was evicted in the 19th century for refusing to pay poll tax. Meanwhile, the commission is close to solving the claim on the big five Manyeleti game reserve near Bushbuckridge. Three communities ‘ the Mnisis, Sehlares and Moleteles ‘ were claiming the reserve but the commission has validated the Mnisi claim and dismissed the joint claim by the Sehlare and Moletele communities. Manyeleti has 25 000ha of lucrative, virgin bush between the Kruger National Park, the Timbavati Private Reserve and the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. It is home to the big five ‘ lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard ‘ and many other wildlife species. It is the last of South Africa’s undeveloped reserves and, therefore, more valuable than most properties. The Mnisis have decided not to settle on the land, but use it for eco-tourism and commercial purposes. Another troublesome land claim in Limpopo has been a tug-of-war between Rain Queen Modjadji’s Bolobedu ba Modjadji clan, the Bakgaga ba Maupa and other smaller clans for the 31 000 hectares of land in Letaba near Modjadjiskloof. The commission appointed retired history and ethnology Professor Victor Ralushai to determine the legitimate claimants to the land after being beset by counterclaims. The land includes fruit estates and southern Africa’s biggest tomato producer, ZZ2. Prof Ralushai is still working on his report. ‘ BuaNews.

May 2006
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