Chief’s multibillion-rand land claim

Property owned by state, parastatals, schools, shopping centres and farms affected

A MAMELODI man could become one of South Africa’s multibillion rand property moguls if a land claim he has instituted in Pretoria is successful.

The claim on the 25 000ha of land – stretching from Cullinan to eastern Moot and from Kameeldrift to The Willows – was gazetted earlier this month and has resulted in several property sales in the area being cancelled.

Victor Lekhuleni’s claim includes diplomatic properties, farms, businesses, schools, churches, residential areas, townships, squatter camps, hospitals, industrial zones and portions of the Magaliesberg mountain range.

The Land Claims Court ruled that the claim be considered.

A six-month validation process is now under way.

Lekhuleni asserts that the land belongs to his tribe, the Mhwaduba of the Bakgatla ba Lekhuleni, of which he is chief.

If successful, tens of thousand of people will be affected.

Lekhuleni, a traditional leader, claims his tribe occupied the land since the 1800s but was forcibly removed from their homes between 1958 and 1962.

Lekhuleni’s lawyer, Vivien de Klerk, said: “Like any tribal community they would like their land back, but they accept that it is not possible in terms of developed areas. Where land cannot be returned they will seek compensation.”

The claim includes some of Pretoria’s most affluent areas such as La Montagne, Wapadrand and Silver Lakes, as well as 400 smallholdings, industrial areas, Mamelodi township and numerous informal settlements.

The land targeted includes properties owned by the government, Transnet, City of Tshwane, Sanral, Eskom, the Post Office and Telkom.

De Klerk said: “The land under claim is worth billions of rands. If the claim is successful there will either be restitution where the landowner is remunerated for the land’s value or the claimaint is renumerated for their lost land rights.”

He said 95% of the landowners would not be affected as the government would remunerate them.

“Those likely to be affected are the government, which still holds large portions of the land, and farmers, who have vast open tracks of land.”

De Klerk said Lekhuleni was willing to negotiate long-term lease agreements with farmers.

He said the only compromise Lekhulani was not prepared to make was for the portion of the Magliesberg.

“The mountain is used for the tribe’s annual initiation ceremonies.”

Willie Lubbe, Eluri property agency’s principal agent, said the claim had had an adverse effect on property sales.

“There is lots of uncertainty. Last week, agencies reported cancellations of numerous property sales.”

Lubbe said the moment prospective buyers saw there was a land claim on the property they pulled out of the deal.

Piet van der Watt of the Land Claims 2 Committee, which is opposing the claim, said: “There are property developments scheduled to take place but developers are concerned about going ahead. These are big developments, residential, malls, schools and industry. It’s big money.”

Van der Watt, who owns the Derdepoort shopping centre, said: “If business people have to rent back their property it will be disastrous for business.

“Government can’t sort out Eskom, how will they be able to pay out all this money?

“It affects everyone in our community, black and white. We have worked hard to build our homes, businesses and schools. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Cindy Benyane, Gauteng regional land claims commission chief director, said while the Land Claims Court ordered the claim gazetted it did mean it was valid.

Banyane said a researcher would investigate the claim’s validity over the next six months.

-Graeme Hosken

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