Land claim settlements in Kruger National Park: stakeholder meeting; with Deputy Ministers

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

30 November 2021
Chairperson: Ms F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

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The Portfolio Committee met virtually to be briefed on land claimants in the Kruger National Park by SANParks, Commission on Restitution of Land and Chairperson of the Affected Communities.

The Portfolio Committee asked the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) as well as the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) to be unified and provide a prerequisite leadership and be solution oriented because the land claimants communities are suffering. The Committee also called for verification and unity amongst the land claimants’ communities. Members asked both the sister departments to facilitate workable solution and find a mediator.

There are 15 land claimants submitted to the Kruger National Parks. The settlement model was through a financial compensation and beneficiation scheme.

Madonsi community said that they have not benefited from Kruger National Parks, and they believe that the SANParks team is purposely delaying the compensation programme. The leaders say they were bypassed, and that the SANParks has an issue with them getting a legal representative. The community also wants a title deed to the Shangoni Gate.

The Muyexe community is concerned about the ability of the beneficiation scheme to offer equitable redress, development rights and notarial title deeds.

Ngirivhani Mathebula blamed the Regional Land Claims Commission for not supporting them with the incurred R17 million legal charges. They also blamed SANParks for not giving them detailed information about the beneficiation scheme and numbers proposed in the scheme.

The Mahashe community had no representation in this meeting.

The Gomondwane community said that SANParks are dishonest and not transparent because they were never consulted about the Skukuza Safari and Shalati Lodge. They questioned how one can come up with a programme from a Department without them being involved.

The Ndindani community said that they were excluded from the Project Management Unit because they are stuck in phase one of the settlement process. The Ndindani community is expecting the registration of a community property association, co-management of land outside Kruger National Park and piloting of a wildlife economy project by SANParks.

Mhlanganisweni communities are waiting for SANParks to offer them a workshop on the proposed beneficiation scheme, legal representative, and a chairperson. They stressed that the appointed Chairpersons of the Affected Communities do not report back. “Can people not hide behind us and say that we did not want to participate? Leaders are not supposed to participate, but the land claimants do. Go back and consult the community!”, Mhlanganisweni  said.

The Chairperson said that the matters raised today need to be urgently dealt with because “it cannot be that we continue to complain and mourn about the dysfunctionality of the CPAs”.  The matter must be prioritised in the new year. She added that she is expecting an answer to know if there are any land claimants outside of KNP. They will be continuously engaging during the recess period.

 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming everyone to the meeting. She extended her condolences, on behalf of the Portfolio Committee, on the passing of Mr P Modise (ANC)'s brother.

Apologies were received from the Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment (DFFE), as well as Committee Member Ms N Gantsho (ANC).

The Chairperson asked that the agenda for the day be adopted.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) moved for the adoption of the agenda. He highlighted that this meeting required a physical meeting with the land claimants.

Mr N Singh (IFP) seconded the move for the adoption of the agenda.

Chairperson’s Remarks

The Chairperson said the matter that will be dealt with today is close to all public representatives hearts. The beneficiation scheme at the Kruger National Park (KNP) should remain a priority, considering the high level of poverty and unemployment around that area. When the communities do not benefit from their land, crime becomes inevitable. We also need to remember that KNP land falls under a protected area belonging to the land claimants that are here today. When communities are involved in the workings of KNP they will value, defend, and promote the game reserve and its programmes. I have gone through the reports, and she was disheartened that this is not the case. The oversight visit to the KNP undertaken by some of the Portfolio Committee highlighted that time and communication breakdowns were major limiting factors. Today, she wanted the Committee to spend more time on solutions rather than historical accounts. The problem started with the land claimant process and the settlement agreement. Addressing Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha (Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development), she said these problems need to be addressed today with a clear plan of action and timelines. The discussions on the pre- and post-settlement modalities and contracting appear to be outstanding for a very long time. It is totally unacceptable that government departments and its agencies keep on shifting the blame instead of finding solutions and doing their work. SANParks only responded now because the Committee scheduled the meeting today. “What stopped the engagements between the Commission on Restitution of Land (CRL), Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), DFFE and SANParks? Why did you not attend to the Portfolio Committee’s recommendations and findings?” she asked.

The Chairperson found it incorrect that Chairpersons of Affected Communities (CAPs) and community structures can be dysfunctional and then the sister departments do nothing or intervene when legislation allows that. She told both the Deputy Ministers from DFFE and DALRRD to provide a prerequisite leadership because the communities continue to suffer. “There is no tangible progress; contents are recycled from one presentation to the other. There is nothing wrong with the governmental systems in place, they just need to be implemented”.

DFFE Deputy Minister’s remarks

The Deputy Minister, Ms Maggie Sotyu, said that it is very important that the land claimants’ communities be united for DFFE to assist them with their problems. It is very difficult to get a solution if the communities are not united. She said it was very much obvious, from the previous engagements with the communities, DFFE, DALRRD and SANParks, that there are serious unity issues preventing the land claimant matters to progress. She said she had an opportunity to go through all the presentations from the land claimants, and deduced that they are all saying the same thing. What we can do is to offer solutions to their problems.

Briefing by the Kruger Land Claim and Beneficiation Scheme

Ms Pam Yako, South African National Parks (SANParks) Board Chairperson, greeted everyone, and thanked the community for accepting their apology last week. She said SANParks was advised by the Deputy Minister of DALRRD to take these issues very seriously. Time for talks is over. He said SANParks attempted to answer some of the issues raised in the previous meetings.

The presentation was delivered by Mr Ngcali Nomtshongwana - Portfolio Manager responsible for the development and implementation of the beneficiation scheme for the Kruger land claimants.

Mr Nomtshongwana said that there are 15 land claims in total submitted to the KNP. A total of seven have been settled through a 2016 settlement agreement. Two relevant claims outside of KNP were settled, namely: MalaMala and Mjejane.

The KNP beneficiation scheme was established in 2019 (Refer to page 8 of the presentation)

The challenges faced by the KNP regarding the land claimants:

(a) Lack of clarity in terms of legal representatives from the communities.

(b) Disagreement amongst the communities regarding the beneficiation scheme.

(c) The challenges with facilitations of negotiations to ensure the completion of the beneficiation scheme.

The main issues raised by land claimants from Mahashi, Ngirivhani-Mathebula, Madonsi, Muyexe and Mhlanganisweni communities are:

(a)The beneficiation scheme is short of equitable redress: The land claimants’ communities have a right to question whether the scheme is equitable or not.

Mr Nomtshongwana highlighted that it is difficult to address this issue due to lack of engagements.

(b) Impact of new claims to the current settled claims: The land claimants are concerned about the inclusion of the new claimants (on top of the seven). They are asking if the inclusion will not adversely dilute their benefits. For instance, if they were paid R100 million on an annual basis, what will happen if there are new eight claimants joining? Will the money reduce?

(c) Inadequate consultations during developments of Beneficiation Scheme: The land claimants asked about the adequacy of the consultations.

Mr Nomtshongwana said that the subject of inadequacy can only be answered through meetings. “We are always open as KNP to offer consultations – so long as everyone is happy. If there is a need for further consultation, we can also do that”, he added.

(d) Claimants want co-management with development rights over land: There has been no formal engagement with the land claimants for about 18 months because of the set legal processes.

The presentations from the Mpumalanga and Limpopo Regional Commissions were given by Mr Sam Nkosi and Mr Thele Maphoto, respectively.

The Deputy Minister from DALRRD, Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha, tendered an apology from Minister Didiza and the Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Ms Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo (to join later). He indicated that the people whose land was taken by force from them are continuing to suffer in a democratic dispensation. He added that he agrees with the Deputy Minister from DFFE that unity of the land claimants is very critical. He added that, at some stage, government decided that the land claim from KNP is not restorable. This led to some claimants opting for financial compensations, which were not all paid. He said that it is important for everyone in the meeting to be solution oriented.

The settlement model was on two settlement awards (1) financial compensation instead of improvements lost during dispossessions (2) The beneficiation scheme to empower communities to have development rights inside and outside the KNP.

Mpumalanga

Claims lodged against the properties constituting KNP in the southern part of the park (Mpumalanga) were received from Gomondwane, Mahashi, Mhlanganisweni, Ngirivani Mathebula and Phabeni. The claimants met the requirement of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, No 22 of 1994.

Funds were approved for four communities except Phabeni (refer to page six of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Mpumalanga presentations). The outstanding research report from Phabeni has been approved and submitted for gazetting. The land claims will be settled in the next financial year 2022/2023.

Limpopo

Land claims in Limpopo were lodged by 11 communities, namely: Makuleke, Mapindani, Madonsi, Ndindani, Muyexe, Makahane Marithenga, Ba-Phalaborwa Ba Maseke, Ba-Phalaborwa Ba Makhushane, Ba-Phalaborwa Ba Selwane, Makhuva Mathebula and Bakgalaka.

The Cabinet Memorandum of 2008 highlighted that it is not feasible to restore the land claimants. Therefore, the land claimants opted for financial compensation despite their initial preference for land restoration. The communities of Madonsi, Ndindani and Muyexe were financially compensated, except one household in Muyexe due to a family dispute. The families were further granted the beneficiation scheme award. The Makahane Marithenga Community declined the financial compensation and instead opted for land restoration.

Briefings by the Chairpersons of the Affected Communities (CPAs)

Madonsi

Mr Richard Miyambo said that he disagrees with the statement made by the Regional Commissioners and SANParks team that Madonsi has benefited. “We did not benefit from anything in 2016. These guys are trying to make sure we get nothing.  Why did the beneficiation scheme collapse? They do not want to give us business opportunities. We understand that KNP is an economic hub, so we need an authorial title deed to show that our forefathers are from KNP. The 40 artisans plus 380 labourers included in the SANParks were not from land claimants but the People and Parks programme”, he explained.

“These people are playing divide and rule management - they go through the community telling them that the legal representatives are not good because they will eat our money. The SANParks team are the ones delaying the process because they had a legal representative from the beginning, and we negotiated to them in faith without a legal representation. The SANParks has a problem with us getting a legal representative because they imposed the beneficiation scheme on us. The mediator (Mr Memeza) failed to consult with the leaders of the communities. The leaders were bypassed, and the mediator was consulting the communities”, he said.

He corrected that the Madonsi land hectares were claimed and there are 126 people in Madonsi not 135 as reflected by the presentation.

Chief Madonsi said that the claimant issues are not dealt with very well. He said that the CRL and Regional Land Claimant Commission (RLCC) is delaying the programme. “We have a problem with Shangoni Gate and title deeds in Limpopo”, he said. He advised that both parties must create a new way of starting afresh with the land claimant’s programme”.

Muyexe

Dr Hlongwani said he concurred with what Mr Maphoto said. He said that the community has a problem with the beneficiation scheme in terms of equitable redress, developmental rights, and notarial title deeds. Dr Hlongwani said that the KNP team said that they are not able to facilitate the above-mentioned things to them. He added that the beneficiation scheme needs to be tangible and sustainable.

Ngirivhani/ Mathebula

Mr Sam Mathebula said that he blames the RLCC for not supporting them regarding the legal challenges they incurred.  “They are sabotaging us!” He said that there was a +/- R17 million bill to pay for legal representation (Mr Mabunda and his team). “This caused a problem with our community because we never signed a mandate”, he added. He also said that it is not easy to negotiate the phase two of the beneficiation scheme while they have legal issues to solve. The RLCC was supposed to capacitate the community representatives with negotiation skills to deal with the business deal of this nature. He added that the SANParks never offered detailed information when they presented the beneficiation scheme to the community. They only focused on the percentages that caused issues. “For instance, if you say the community gets 5% without any details, you leave the community with so much confusion. We need detailed information where we can understand the meaning behind the numbers”, he explained.

The RLCC also promised to create a legal entity for us in 2016 to establish the Constitution. Mr Mathebula highlighted that phase one of the compensation was full of corruption. There were duplicates of files where people appear in two households. The RLCC promised to resolve the issue that caused the delay in first payments. He stressed that the community wants phase one to be financially settled before they can deal with the phase two of the beneficiation scheme. “SANParks needs to come on board and offer us detailed information. The one percent they mention can be R100, which is not equitable”, he explained.

Mahashe

No one represented the community.

Gomondwane

Mr Sambo said that the land claim issue is very thorny and emotional. He added that they would not be where they are if the consultations were transparent and honest. “I do not agree with the SANParks when they said we are consulted. No, we are not consulted. For example, we were never consulted about the Skukuza Safari and Shalati issue”, he responded. “We wrote a letter on the 17th of February 2017 to SANParks complaining about non-consultations. Also, the people who work at the Shalati lodge are not from our land claims communities despite us complaining about unemployment. Nobody involves us”, he said.

“I was part of the terms of reference (TOR) development process for the appointment of the mediator. It was agreed in those meetings that no actions should be undertaken without the involvement of all the parties. The roadmap also includes how we should move forward. “How do you come up with a programme from a Department without us being involved?”, he asked.

He added that there was an indication (by the Commission through Mr George Mathedimusa) before the settlement agreements that they will be assigned legal representation to take them through the process. “That was never done. They told us that if we are not happy there is an amendment clause, which is difficult to do now. They trapped us and we are not happy with that. We pronounced clearly that we are not going to allow any resettlement in Kruger but allow for continuation of the protected area – so long we can benefit somehow”, he said. 

“We refuse the 1% issue. We do not know where it comes from. We are not settled about the cabinet memorandum of 2008 because we were not involved in the drafting of this document. We are happy that we are given the platform to voice your concerns today. It shows that someone somewhere is not committed to making a better life for our people”, he said.

Ndindani

Adv Zwelithini Sono said that the Ndindani community was never part of the Project Management Unit (PMU). He said they could not participate in the project management unit with communities that are stuck in phase one and have not finalised the verification of their community members. “This immediately creates a conflict with the phase two developmental processes. I advised the community to refuse to be involved in the PMU. We submitted a concept for approval of the development of Shangoni Gate document to the Portfolio Committee Secretary, in February 2017. The Shangoni Gate was approved as a pre-settlement product under the settlement agreement. The document was written in November 2015 and speaks about the business cases and fees application signed by Mr Glen Phillips and Mr Fundisile Mketeni. It talks about the communities and role players within the Shangoni Gate development. The Shangoni Gate involves the land of Nwadzekudzeku, Madonsi and Ndindani (via N6).

There is a letter from Rural Development in 2014 that informs KNP that the development they are about to do is based on land that has already been claimed. The Ndindani and SANParks/KNP agreed to set up an entity (community holding community) during the pre-settlement processes. The Ndindani opted to form a community property association as early as 2016. Adv. Sono also indicated that the Ndindani land claim was processed outside of the KNP line. “This area is part of the Limpopo Trans-frontier Park Development. The Ndindani community objected to participating in a PMU with an entity and Mpumalanga communities that were not ready to form CPAs on the basis that some of their communities have not been verified and paid.” He said that the pre-settlement determinations spoke about projects finance through the developmental funds. The developmental funds were based on potential developments in and around the specific areas where communities reside. The corresponding funders for enterprise developments in the areas include Limpopo Economic and Development of Tourism, DTI, IDC, NDT and DBSA.

He said he agrees with Mr Ngcali Nomtshongwana that the financial costs for the communities were more for the last five years of the settlement, considering that the Ndindani community requested assistance with constitution registration to have proper governance structure. The Ndindani community is owed an explanation. He added that the post-settlement dispute is very worrying because the reports from KNP highlights that they were not part of the pre settlement processes. “If there was no pre-settlement agreement, then on what basis was NEMA applied? Where are the sustainability reports that informed the settlements? If the 2008 Cabinet Memorandum indicated that there must be scoping strategies study, why is there no reference to the scoping studies and the projects that were identified, especially in Limpopo?” he rhetorically asked. By now the community of Ndindani would have benefited from a developed hotel and the budget of these aspects are included in the SANParks report and SANParks consent and approval of Shangoni Gate development document.”

Adv Sono says that the SANParks mentioned the development management organogram, not the PMU. That was the agreement between the Ndindani communities and SANParks that the development management organogram will involve all other stakeholders and will allow the Ndindani community to register a community property association. “The disputes that were raised by other communities on benefits, percentages and notarial rights are just discussions that are being brought now because we went through the beneficiation scheme discussion and our communities were consulted. He said it is unfortunate that some of the communities without legal representatives were part of the discussions. However, there has been a lack of cooperative governance. “It is also clear that even if we mention names and submit the evidence of meetings where the CPAs signed the documents without community resolutions and now are making the disputes that Ndindani was never part of: when the tender was issued for the dispute, the Ndindani community was mentioned, while they were never part of the PMU. They were never part of the team with Ministers to present this dispute. Who represented the Ndindani community there?

Adv. Sono said that he settled the Ndindani, Nwadzekudzeku, Madonsi and Muyexe land claims. He has never received any request that requires more information on benefits and structures that these communities were supposed to be benefitting from. He stressed that he is expecting (a) the Ndindani community property association to be registered, (b) co-management agreement for the land outside of the KNP and (c) a wildlife economy project that should start immediately. He added that the Ndindani communities are ready to invest all their developmental funds in the development of the Shangoni gate as a shareholder as early as tomorrow. “We do not want to be associated with the dispute that exists on non-sustainable ground and based on people disagreeing on documents that are already signed”, he concluded.

Mhlanganisweni

Adv Sibuyi said that the land claimants claim on individual not on group grounds. “We have not offered the beneficiation scheme workshops to our communities”, he added.

He said that the CPAs do not report back to the communities. For example, most of the communities are not aware of the dispute mentioned in this meeting. He said that the beneficiary scheme is not aware of the packages embedded within the scheme. “Through the two-stage theory, we are aware that some aspects of the beneficiation schemes are palatable and that others need to be discussed. “Can we continue to negotiate about the benefit scheme?”, he asked. “My understanding is that we get the 1 % and, in the meantime, we negotiate on the positive aspects of the beneficiation scheme to the community.”

Adv. Sibuyi said it is not true that some people are not benefiting. “Some of our people are making money through tenders at KNP while some poor communities get nothing. If an investigation is conducted, they will find that some of the leaders within the land committees have benefited. We also do not have a CPAs and legal entity at Mhlanganisweni”, he said. 

“I agree with Mr T Maphoto on binding everything regarding land claims court to ensure participatory process.” He said that he wanted to take the KNP to court for a confirmatory order that some of the settlement agreements need to be implemented because the community has been losing for the past five years.” Can people not hide behind us and say that we did not want to participate? Leaders are not supposed to participate but the land claimants. Go back and consult the community!” he exclaimed.

The Chairperson requested the CPAs to submit their arguments in a written format to the Portfolio Committee until Friday.

Discussion

Mr Paulsen asked how many individuals from the mentioned 795 households are land claimants. For which area in the KNP are they claiming? What is the value per individual? Is it fair? He asked what happens when the requested land is developed in the land expropriation without compensation context - for those land claimants that refused financial compensation. He also added that the land is stolen, and it was never anyone’s right to sell it. Mr Paulsen said the Portfolio Committee needs to meet with the CPAs to ensure that this matter is resolved. He also stressed that the representatives of the communities need to be verified so that they can conduct the legitimate meetings.

Ms A Weber (DA) said that the National Union for Public Services and Allied Workers sent a letter on the 11th of November to request a meeting with SANParks on 16 November. Did the meeting take place? What were the outcomes? If postponed, when is the date of the meeting? Have the communities been involved in the negotiations for the commercialisation of the Skukuza Safari Lodge and Nombolo Mdhluli Conference Centre? If they are, what projects are there? If not, why not, and how can they be involved?  She asked for a shortlist of projects that the SANParks said the people can be part of. Did the SANParks or DFFE put in development plans for unemployed community members to get training and acquire skills and resources that are essential to the co-management of KNP? She asked for the beneficiation scheme documents to be sent to her. Ms Weber asked if there is any fraudulent compensation paid and how much money was paid.

Mr Singh thanked the Chairperson for facilitating this meeting. He said that it feels like he is in two meetings, because he is getting two opposing views with a common objective of wanting resolutions to their problems. “There are different methodologies involved: denial and acceptance.” He said that KNP is a crown jewel for South Africa, and the Portfolio Committee cannot let it go to rut.  He also highlighted that the communities removed from this area need to benefit from whatever development is taking place at the KNP. “It is good enough for the government to say that we have jobs created on the land that was taken away from people, but we want equity. The community is also demanding an equitable share”, he commented.

Mr Singh said that it seems that the government agencies and the communities are talking past instead of to each other. “We need to get everybody in the room and make sure they speak to each other, because this problem needs to be resolved”. He noted the halt of the mediation process, and said that an accepted mediator, like a former judge or somebody who is acceptable to both parties, is needed look at both the scenarios from different ends. “Let us find a way forward on how we arrive at having mediators together”, he said.

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) said that she is angry and wondering how many people died without benefiting from the compensation from 2016. She said that things must be done properly and procedurally. “You cannot say people must sign and you will review after five years; it cannot happen”, she said. “I will sign the things that I know will benefit me, my future kids and grandkids, because once you attach that signature you are saying you are agreeing.” She said that she disagrees with Adv Sibuyi on the signing of papers: “I agree with getting all the documentation that can assist the Portfolio Committee to resolve the issues. People must benefit from the land that was taken away from.” She added that the information in the documents must be made accessible to the illiterate people in the black communities, through their own languages. “The workshops must also be conducted in the land claimant’s mother tongue. Let us stop playing with our people”. She said that the Portfolio Committee must assist SANParks and DFFE to get a proper mediator. “There is no harm with starting things afresh with proper objectives. Otherwise, we will be selling our own people”.

Mr D Bryant (DA) said: “For progress to be made, as alluded by Ms Mbatha and Mr Singh, we have to make sure that all affected parties are acting in good faith”. He added that the people who are involved in the engagements must negotiate from a place of honesty and genuine integrity. He added that the Portfolio Committee received pieces of information and allegations. It is very essential that the minutes of this meeting be properly consolidated for referral purposes.

Ms Mbatha added that they need to go and hear the side of the communities of KNP’s stories. “They were not given enough time during our oversight, and we need to offer them a space to voice their issues.”

The Chairperson recounted that, during the previous meeting, there was an issue regarding the status of the CPAs. The Committee gave a clear recommendation that the DALRRD must provide a report to brief the Committee on their interventions to assist the CPAs around the KNP. The Chairperson said this issue is still pending and she thinks a joint meeting between DFFE and DALRRD must be convened in the next financial year. “It cannot be correct that CPAs and community structures are dysfunctional while DALRRD are there. I am very worried about the KNP presenting team saying that there is nothing they can do, whereas they have assistance from DFFE. I do not believe that. Where is your cooperative governance in this regard?” 

The Chairperson said that it is painful that these settlements were piloted in 2016 and we are almost in 2022. Is this the snail pace we are operating in this government such that people die without being beneficiaries of land claims? “I am glad, Deputy Minister Skwatsha, that you are here, because you cannot just hold your arms while the legislation is very clear on how relevant departments must intervene under these circumstances”. The Chairperson said that the DALRRD and CRL must facilitate the process of finding workable solutions and general mediation. She said that it seems that the SANParks are seeing the local community as an irritation because they are not afforded the same respect they give to the adjacent owners of the national reserves. “The attitude you have towards the land claimants is not the same attitudes you give to other privately owned game reserves. We might also find that the land claimant issue is not immune to KNP.” The Chairperson said the DALRRD and SANParks must in a written response share how many national parks are affected by land claims in the entire country. “So, we must address the issues of KNP and other land claimant communities concurrently. Given the snail pace operation now, will it not be appropriate to have one generic system for the country than for specialised SANParks like KNP?

The Chairperson asked Mr T Maphoto what issue took the community to the land claimants court. What is the problem with those claimants who want the management and developmental rights over the land owned with SANParks?  She asked if the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy changed the land claims in any way, especially in National Parks. If not, the Director-General (DG) of DFFE, Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, must come to account for the adoption of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy and how it has affected the land claims. Does it address land restitution issues?  What does it seek to address, given the situation we are in?

The Chairperson said that she understood that the National Biodiversity Strategy was developed to deal with these land claimant issues. “I cannot comprehend how we arrive at the Ngirivhani Mathebula’s legal debts. The CRL should have handled this issue so that the money for beneficiaries can deal with poverty, inequality, and unemployment.” Why is SANParks not giving the community support and training?

The Chairperson noted that slide 20 of KNP presentations said that they have supported 51 SMMEs and awarded 10 grants to entrepreneurs. “Where are these entrepreneurs located, because I did not hear any of the land claimants saying that they are entrepreneurs? What is the actual output? What is the economic benefit of training 33 youth in community governance and 12 ambassadors/ champions of change? Are you able to locate the 33 youth members in the land claimant communities? Where are they now? Have they been placed or are seated at home? What is the impact of the 12 youth ambassadors and champions of change around poverty, unemployment, and equality? Where are the tannery and leathery projects outside the parks funded by DFFE? Can I wake up tomorrow and say I am going outside the KNP like in Madonsi to see the projects?”

The Chairperson said that the SANParks lamented their presentation on slide 21 on the risk of non-operation of the PMU and told them that there is no platform to engage with the land claimants and that there is lack of communication and suspension of capacity building, opportunity loss for clients and opportunities for external parties to hijack. Who is supposed to lead these processes? Is it not you with you two sister departments (DFFE and DALRRD)? Are you throwing them at our faces without proposed solutions?

The Chairperson noted that slide 22 of KNP highlights that the entity has an internal team that is reviewing the beneficiation scheme. When will this happen? “Please commit.”

The Chairperson said she wants to understand the outstanding amount of developmental funds by the RLCC. Has the money been in the bank since 2016? The figures should have accrued an interest - can you adjust the figures and inform the land claimants. When will a sustainable beneficiation scheme happen for both Limpopo and Mpumalanga?  The Chairperson said that the issues raised by the plight presented on 05 May 2021 were partially responded to by KNP. The other responsibilities were supposed to be responded to by DALRRD.

Responses

Deputy Minister Sotyu said that she has noted accusation and counter accusation issues like in the previous meeting. “At least we had additional input from the land commission team, which clarified some of the issues”.

She said that she agrees with Mr Singh that there are still very serious challenges with regards to the objectives. All the stakeholders must go back and respond to the questions that have been posed.  She highlighted that it is important for the DFFE and DALRRD to unite and drive this project until all parties reach an agreement.

Ms Yako said that the issues raised today are complex and said that the SANParks from board and management has been briefed through induction about some issues, including the beneficiation scheme. “We do need to process all these issues, and we will revert back at the beginning of the new year. The work will continue because we are committed and willing to start engagements with communities to lay a ground for a proper agreement to be signed by all parties.”

Ms Yako said, on the responses regarding Mr Singh’s concerns, the projects that are outside the party will be responded to in written format by Monday. She said that the meeting with the union is scheduled for 01 December 2021.

She noted the issues of languages and how the SANParks communicate to the communities: “I am asking as for food for thought to consider the complexity of these issues”. She said that there are general issues from the claimant, and there are broader issues around the beneficiation scheme. “They are not mutually exclusive, and we therefore need to find a happy and workable medium between these two issues. At the same time, these issues require us to treat them very carefully.” She added that the SANParks needs to balance few things: “These are not excuses, and we are not shying away to respond to the needs of the land claimant’s community to benefit from KNP”.

She said, in response to Mr Paulsen, that the number of the percentage varies. “We look at projections. The difficulty of working with projections is that the given number is realised not re-enacted. We would not know the exact profits we will get over the years. We have committed to the percentage of that profit to the beneficiation scheme.” She concluded that SANParks is committed to resolve the issues and ensure that the affected communities reap benefits in a new democratic dispensation.

Chief Matsila, a member of SANParks Board, said that the new board comes without any preconceived ideas. “We will dig deeper into the issue raised by the community, and we will come back and bring a proper intractable package.”

Mr Nomtshongwana (SANParks) said that the biggest challenge is the current legal processes. He said that he likes and is committed to the suggestion of meeting for one week in one room to settle the matters raised. He added that he is also committed to meet the land claimant’s community as early as tomorrow, if they can be allowed to do so. Members must not forget that there is a legal process that is preventing the SANParks from engaging with the communities. He added that the value of the beneficiation scheme will be submitted in detail when the SANParks submit their written report. “We cannot promise an empty shell to the community. We had to look at every detail including equity, value of the potential jobs created and enterprise. We have put Rands and cents, even though the chairperson highlighted how difficult this is – especially when the numbers change due to interest”. He said that the list of projects, particularly the tourism ones, will be provided. He added that training will be a fundamental aspect of the whole programme. “I mentioned in my presentation that almost 30 -35% of total turnover made by SANParks goes to the procurement of goods and services. “Most of the opportunities that are made available, we do not find the right and capable implementers. Hence, we discussed within the PMU that we need to develop the capacity so that in 5-10 years from now we do not talk about the lack of capable SMMEs”, he said.

He mentioned that, over the past three years, SANParks went through a rigorous training of 195 school leavers through a programme. “We have always requested that the beneficiary scheme must be present to the broader beneficiaries. Adv Sibuyi was right to say that the real beneficiaries here are all the voiceless masses. We are prepared to go again and present it in a simple manner to the communities. We were very clear from the start that jobs alone are not going to be equitable and fair. I mentioned that there is a free 10% equity in all the new businesses, and there is an option for claimants with their development funds to buy up to 30% in those new businesses” He said that there are more than two million living within the western boundary of KNP and they are all looking at KNP as a last hope engine of economic development. “There are about seven forums where land claimants participate. We had a road show in the past week from Malamulele to Malelane, where we met with 1 000 SMMEs to discuss the business opportunities that will be available to KNP over the couple of coming years. “I am just demonstrating that there is a will within SANParks to help the communities.

He mentioned that it is important to have some level of agreement without sounding like they are forcing the beneficiaries to sign the beneficiation scheme. “If there are 12 incentives in the beneficiation scheme and we are only agreeing on 10 of those: like Adv Sibuyi said, there is nothing stopping the land claimants from signing those so that people can begin benefitting. It would be complicated at this stage to allow the aspects of the beneficiation scheme to be implemented without the signed documents”.  Mr Nomtshongwana said once the beneficiation scheme is in place it would be applicable for more than 100 years. The five-year renewal is structured to allow renewal and inclusion of the new projects for everyone's comfort.

He further said that one of the core programmes that is run at SANParks within the socio-economic transformation division of the SANParks called ‘Land Inclusion for Exclusion’ will identify good pieces of land outside the park, and include them at KNP without imposing bigger restrictions. “The intention is to include people in the KNP economy. There are few traditional authorities that have already approached SANParks and integrated their land. The Wildlife Economy Strategy talks about how the communities can be supported in the form of infrastructure and other things”, he explained.

Deputy Minister Skwatsha said that he noted all the dire needs of the land claimants, as expressed by the Portfolio Committee. He agreed with Mr Singh that they need to sit down in one room to address all these issues provided that the land claimants are unified. “The painful thing about these issues is that people die whilst waiting for these settlements. The honours are on us political leaders to make sure that we give SANParks marching orders in how they should respond. We take it to heart everything that was raised here”.

Ms Ntloko-Gobodo (Land Claims Commissioner) said that the settlement agreements were settled and signed in 2016/2017 through financial compensation and beneficiation scheme. A PMU was set to ensure that the beneficiation scheme gets conceptualised and signed off.  She said that the signing did not happen because of the challenges that have already been articulated. She added that the mediation process also failed because of various issues highlighted in the session. There are multiple mandates that do align, but sometimes they do not. She said that the Commission referred the beneficiation scheme to the land claimants court, in terms of section 14 of the Restitution Act, for a court mediated settlement. “Letters were sent to various departments (DALRRD and DFFE) and representatives of the claimants to notify them of our intention. Every community will be represented by an attorney that will be funded by the Land Commission under section 29(4) of the Restitution Act. We expect all the stakeholders to be presented in court and we will present our position so that a determination can be made around what type of beneficiation scheme is workable. We will propose the current drafted beneficiation scheme to court as a basis for negotiation”. She proposed that the one-room meeting must be conducted in a legal mediated setting, according to the Restitution Act. She added that the CRL have tried the mediation process informally, but because of various interests from various parties it became impossible to determine if the person they were engaging with were authorised to speak on behalf of the communities. “The court mediated process requires everyone to position their arguments in court. They will be recorded, and the process certifies the bona fide so that we can aggressively pursue the finalisation of the beneficiation scheme. Our role as the CRL is to ensure that there is a beneficiation scheme that is developed and signed by the land claimants so that it can be implemented by SANParks”. She stressed that the mandate of the CRL will only be completed once the beneficiation scheme is finalised.

She acknowledged that a letter has been sent by one of the land claimant communities attorneys, seeking to refer the matter to an alternative dispute resolution outside of court. “The CRL does not recommend that, because the issues of who represents who will not be resolved if it is not conducted in a formal land claimant mediate court decision. As we settle claims across the provinces, we often find that the communities did not give any mandate to the person who said he is representing them”. Ms Ntloko-Gobodo said that the CRL has communicated very clearly to the land claimants’ communities that if they want to engage in any form of litigation, they can use their own resources.  She added that the land claimants were told to apply to the Land Commission if they required any litigation assistance. “Communities engage in litigation outside of the Restitution Act and then want the CRL to fund an unproved litigation. The panel of lawyers from the standard land management facility are required to operate within a specific tariff. They are specific things that they can and cannot do if they are going to be assisting with litigation. We cannot be expected to fund things that occurred outside the mandate of the CRL that we are unaware of.” She said that it was clearly communicated to the land claimants that, if the list submitted includes people who are not part of the beneficiation, they cannot be paid – which is the case in Mpumalanga. “Until Mpumalanga land claimants remove the list of people who should not be on the list, we will not finalise phase one of the financial compensation”, she said.

Mr Nkosi said that the information money in the interest accumulating ABSA account for both Limpopo and Mpumalanga will be made available by the finance team. He added that the R17 Million, as mentioned by Mr Sam Mathebula in Mpumalanga, was responded to by Ms Ntloko-Gobodo. “The Ngirivhani/Mathebula community appointed a legal representative without our knowledge. We are trying to assist them in terms of making the order from the court reversed. What Mabunda Attorneys did is illegal because they cannot claim the money from the community where there is no legal entity formed for accountability”, he explained.

Adv Matsane said that they are in the process of finalising an application for the commission to intervene and they will also submit a memorandum to the Minster. “The Minister will intervene because he was not served properly with these papers. The matter is being heard at the Mpumalanga High Court, which does not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate over restitution”. He said that he was hoping that Mr Sam Mathebula would have clarified that we have made much progress in the past three weeks since the documents were received. He added that the land claimants were also advised to go and open a criminal investigation for fraud against the individual (the previous Chairperson of Ngirivhani) and the attorney. “The attorney also highlighted that he has been to PMU meetings, but the attendance register proves otherwise. There is a lot of alleged fraud in this matter, and we are attending to them accordingly”, he indicated.

Mr Maphoto said that the land Mr Paulsen referred to was not restored in title as per Cabinet Memorandum of 2008. He added that there are no fraudulent transactions, and no one in Limpopo is owed any financial compensation. “We paid them all, except one family in Muyexe, where there is still an issue that needs to be addressed. The issue is not fraudulent but one of misunderstanding and miscommunication. The Makuleke land claim was settled before the 2008 Cabinet decision”, he clarified. The Makahane/Marithenga refused financial compensation, therefore they cannot be forced. However, in terms of the Restitution Act, this matter must be referred to court for further adjudication.

In terms of development grants, he said that the two columns on the right (in the presentation) just show the amount approved and outstanding. “We will provide the updated figures in terms of the interest accrued. We just wanted to show the members how much was approved for each community”, he explained.  

Mr Singh asked who is going to facilitate the Imbizo when there will be a one room meeting.

Mr Mathebula said that he wanted to withdraw the word ‘sabotage’.

Chief Madonsi said that he was surprised when KNP did not approach them as a land claimant but approached the community of Bhevula because they wanted to open a game farm that side. Why are other communities involved in these programmes?

Closing Remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson said that she will revert to Mr Singh after talking to her outer counterpart, Mr Zwelivelile Mandela (Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development). “We must make sure that the imbizo is implemented in the new financial year.”

The Chairperson also asked SANParks to send a report to explain why they did not consult the Madonsi community regarding the game farm. The Chairperson said that the matters raised today need to be urgently dealt with because “it cannot be that we continue to complain and mourn about the dysfunctionality of the CPAs”.  The matter must be prioritised in the new year. She added that she is expecting an answer to know if there are any land claimants outside of KNP. They will be continuously engaging during the recess period.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the virtual meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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