Dispossessed Limpopo land claimants left smiling

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Makhado - Smiles abounded on Saturday when the surviving direct descendants of the Ribungwane residents, who had been dispossessed of their land, received monetary vouchers from the South African government.

A total of 182 land claimants received vouchers, while a further 77 will receive what is due to them before the end of the year. The majority of beneficiaries, who are illiterate, will each pocket over R54 000.

Limpopo Regional Land Claims Commissioner, Tele Maphoto, who was one of the people who helped in the handing over ceremony, explained that the original Ribungwane descendants were brutally driven out of their land between 1963 and 1967 by the apartheid government.

"[The vouchers] are an acknowledgement by government that the forced removals were wrong. With the financial compensation, we want to comfort the land claimants from the bitter experience suffered by their original dispossessed.

"The money will be paid into their bank accounts and we've explained to them to stay alert to those who might think of cheating them their land claim compensation," said Maphoto.

Those who did not have bank accounts were assisted on Saturday by Absa bank officials to open accounts.

The land under claim is Portion 1 and 2 of the farm Koedespoort 402 LS, Grootplaats 399 LS, Portion 1 and 2 of the farm Buffelshoek 403 LS and Groenkloof 86 LT in the Vhembe District under the Makhado Municipality.

Currently, the piece of land under claim is used for grazing, ploughing and residential purposes by the neighbouring Tshivenda speaking Nthabalala community.

The Shangaan speaking land claimants used to live together with the Vhavenda until the apartheid government introduced the Bantu Authority Act in 1951 aimed at separating indigenous tribes.

Chairperson of the Ribungwane land claimants, Ringeta Shilaluke explained that they had opted for a financial compensation as they no longer wanted to return to their ancestral land. He said there were people, the Vhavenda, living there now.

"We know that the generation before us lived with the Vhavenda in peace and harmony, so we did not want to make the situation complicated by demanding an alternative piece of land because there is a lot of development done by government in our village," he said.

Shilaluke said the leadership had warned beneficiaries to wisely use their money. "To some people, this might be a drop in an ocean, but to us this is great and we are grateful," he said.

Speaking before handing over the vouchers, Rural Development and Land Affairs Deputy Minister, Thembelani Nxesi, said land restitution was one of the department's strategies to effect land reform as well as to redress past injustices in the country. "In our efforts to redress these injustices, government would reverse this situation by giving these communities their land back," he said.

However, in some areas it is not possible to get the dispossessed land. In such circumstances, the department would compensate concerned community with another piece of land.

"Such situations arise, especially when there has been development that has taken place on the dispossessed land. It so happens that in some instances the land claimants would opt for financial compensation which has been the case with the Ribungwane community," he said.

The Ribungwane community which originated from Mozambique, were comprised of three claims, but in 2008, the three claiming groups agreed to consolidate their claim into one.

"The claimants have opted for a financial compensation and have accepted the standard settlement offer per household, the state will award financial compensation of R54 650 to each of the 259 claimant household of Ribungwane Community," he said.

According to the deputy minister, the total amount of the claim is R14 263 650.

In South Africa, land is still a worrying issue as government intends to redistribute 30 percent of prime white-owned farm land to black people by the year 2014.