Land claim row could split clan

Property owners affected by royal family dispute

A ROYAL clan war is brewing over a multibillion-rand land claim for Pretoria’s wealthiest areas, which is forcing property owners to notify authorities about the sale or development of their land.

Farms, shopping complexes, luxury housing estates, diplomatic properties and scientific and industrial areas are under the 25 000ha claim in the city’s eastern suburbs.

The claim by the Bakgatla ba Lekhuleni clan’s self-proclaimed chief, Victor Lekhuleni, comes as infighting threatens to split the family, and fears by home and business owners of mass evictions and property devaluation mount.

On Saturday, the Land Claims Commission ordered property owners to notify it before doing anything to their properties, including selling them. Failure to do so could see owners and developers ordered to halt developments or sales and forced to cover costs should they go ahead without permission.

Gauteng Regional Land Claims Commission chief director Cindy Benyane said they were not preventing people from selling or developing their land.

“Legally, owners whose properties are the subject of a claim have to notify the commission within one month if they intend to do something to it, regardless of whether they’re selling it, building a swimming pool, subdividing it or donating it.

“This is mainly for cases involving vacant land which people want to develop, which changes the property’s value. The commission views this more seriously than property sales or alterations.”

She said if developments were done in bad faith the Land Claims Court could set them aside.

Piet van der Watt, who is part of the Lands Claim 2 Committee set up to fight the land claim and whose Derdepoort shopping centre is under claim, said the commission’s instructions would have a detrimental effect.

“Already, property developers and banks are holding back on multimillion-rand developments, which will have an economic knock-on effect. If you inform the commission, then what? Will it stop developments and economic growth for a claim which cessed?”

Complicating the commission’s evaluation process is that Lekhuleni’s claim is not the only claim on the land. A Land Claims commission source said a royal showdown was looming.

Kekana Royal Family chairman Shiukwane Kekana said they had lodged a claim in 1990 and were not prepared to negotiate “frivolous claims”.

He said their claim stretched from Rust de Winter to Silverton, which was also claimed by Lekhuleni.

Bakgatla ba Lekhuleni Foundation social development and environmental affairs director Angela Absziet said different parts of the family were in dispute.

“The dispute involves another member of the family claiming to be chief. Meetings with our family’s royal council are under way.”

Absziet said they had only become aware of the other clan’s claims on Saturday.

“Our chief has claimed 15 farms and will not lose them.

“No one in their right mind can lodge such a large claim without substantial proof,” she said.

-Graeme Hosken

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