Throughout time, man has performed terrible deeds in the pur suit of land and South Africa’s own dark history bears testament to this inescapable fact.
Sometimes, however, a jewel can emerge from the darkness and one of these is SA National Park’s Kruger National Park.
On Saturday, the settlement of land claims went some way towards lifting the ever-present shadow of forced removals of communities from the park as it is today.
“Although Kruger National Park is considered a conservation flagship, its treasure also constitutes a collective memory, culture and tradition of those who were dispossessed of this land,” President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday in Skukuza village in the park.
“The settlement model took into account the significance of the Kruger National Park as a home to an unparalleled diversity of wildlife and embraced an effort to save this national monument for generations to come,” Zuma said.
“It was therefore agreed that the settlement model will be one that takes the very important role of conservation into account.”
According to head of department of rural development and land reform in Limpopo, Tele Maphoto, six claims were settled, benefiting 813 households.
The Mhlanganisweni community and Sibuyi families (116 households), Mahasi (191), Mathebula of the Ngirivani community (191), Madonsi (135), Muyexe (128), and Ndindani (52) communities claimed nearly 318 749ha of the Kruger combined, valued at more than R194 million, for which they were paid a little more than R84 million.
Each family received nearly R111 000 in cash. Phase 2 will deal with developmental projects, said Maphoto.
“There is money earmarked for projects relating to these communities. We have to deal with the logistics of finding out what will work best for these communities,” Maphoto said.
The massive celebration of the handover on Saturday however had government officials muttering as Mpumalanga ANC handed out T-shirts and other regalia ahead of the event.
“No man, we told them not to hand out T-shirts, this is a government event,” an official said crossly.
The Congress of South African Students also displayed a banner calling for Zuma to finish his term, stating they supported him completely.
However, Zuma himself, while acknowledging the chants of “Zuma, Zuma, Zuma”, stuck to the theme of the day.
“In order to ensure that everyone who lost land rights in the past as a result of past racially discriminatory laws and practices have an opportunity for redress, the lodgement of land claims has been reopened until 30 June 2019 to accommodate those who missed the initial cut-off deadline” said Zuma.
There are still more claims which have to be settled in the park and Zuma appealed to those who still had to lodge their claims, not to abuse the process.