Makuleke Land Claim


17 February 1999
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Meeting report


17 February 1999


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Summary of Settlement Agreement related to Makuleke Land Claim


The Makuleke Land Claim Settlement Process committee reported to a joint sitting of the Portfolio Committee Environmental Affairs and Tourism and Select Committee Agriculture, Land and Environmental Affairs, requesting an amendment to the National Parks Act Schedule 1. The amendment would allow a section of Kruger National Park to be deproclaimed, and it could then be handed over to the Makuleke community who were forcibly removed in 1969. The community will not move back onto the land, but will enter into a conservation contract with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Any mineral rights will be seceded to the state.

The committees agreed to the request. Further briefings were given on the Sea Fisheries, and endangered species issues. These briefings were not attended.

This is an incomplete record of the committee meeting's proceedings.

ummary of the Settlement Agreement related to the Makuleke Land Claim

On Tuesday December 15 1998, the Land Claims Court in Randburg ordered the transfer of the Makuleke Community's ancestral land, most of which fell within the Pafuri Region of the Kruger National Park, to the community provided that certain prior steps are taken. The order was made subject to various conditions, which will ensure that both the land's conservation status and the community's rights are protected. It follows intensive and constructive negotiations involving many interested groups, from 1996 onwards, culminating in the settlement agreement (dated 30 May 1998, and amended in December 1998) between the Makuleke community, six national ministers, the Northern Province provincial government and the 8A National Parks. The process of negotiation was mediated under the auspices of the DLA's National Land Reform Mediation and Arbitration Panel.

The settlement of the historic Makuleke land claim sets an important precedent for claims on conservation land. The agreement negotiated by the parties illustrates the possibilities for win-win solutions to such land claims.

Before this agreement can be implemented Parliament's agreement must first be secured for the conversion of the status of the Paturi region of the Kruger National Park from a schedule 1 national park status to a contract park status. Technically, this involves:

exclusion of the Pafuri region from the National Parks Act's Schedule 1-definition of the Kruger National Park (which needs a resolution from Parliament); and

the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism declaring the Pafuri region, and the adjacent 3 600 hectares of land (presently falling outside the Kruger National Park) to be returned to the Community, part of the Kruger National Park in terms of Section 2B of the National Parks Act.

The Park will be enlarged by about 3 600 hectares through this process. The whole area, which could soon be known as the Makuleke Region of the Kruger National Park, includes 22,734 hectares of pristine conservation land between the Limpopo, Mutale and Luvuvhu rivers.


It has been nearly three decades since the Makuleke community was dispossessed under apartheid laws.

In 1969, members of the community were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the fertile Pafuri Reserve (between the Limpopo, Mutale and Luvuvhu rivers) of the Kruger National Park, and from surrounding state-owned lands. The community, comprising Tsonga and Venda speaking people, were split by the old regime according to ethnic origin. The Tsonga speaking portion of the Community (which had occupied most of the land) was relocated to Ntlhaveni, In the former Gazankulu homeland, and Venda speaking members of the community to the former Venda homeland.

The parties that signed the agreement are six government departments (Land Affairs, Agriculture (DLA), Environmental Affairs & Tourism, Public Works, Minerals & Energy, the SANDF and the MEC for Agriculture, Land and Environment of the Northern Province); the SA National Parks (SANP); and the community's legal representatives, the Legal Resources Centre. Other NGOS also participated in the process and gave the agreement their blessing The land includes about 19 000 hectares presently falling into the Kruger National Park, (known as Pafuri). The remaining 3 800 hectares fall partly within the Matshakatini Nature Reserve in the Madimbo Corridor, a provincial nature reserve under the control of the SA

National Defence Force (SANDF), and partly in the informal Makuya Park managed by the Northern Province Department of Agriculture, Land and Environment. Nobody (besides conservation staff) lives on the land now. Therefore, nobody will be moved to implement the agreement. No resettlement will take place as the community will continue to live where they live now.

In terms of the agreement a contractual park between the community and SANP will be established for 50 years. but the agreement can be reviewed after an initial period of 25 years. A Joint Management Board (JMB), consisting of members both from the SANP and the community, will manage the land for conservation purposes. Decisions will be made by consensus. This will be the first conservation area with full joint management between the SANP and a community owning land. For the initial period, until otherwise decided by the JMB, the SANP will conduct conservation management as agent for the JMB.

The agreement, an example of effective social cooperation between government bodies and land claiming communities, contains many historic elements:

Conservation: The agreement has been welcomed by conservationists as a break through on many fronts. Sensitive wetlands in the Madimbo Corridor (presently falling outside the '(NP), recently identified for special conservation status in terms of international conventions, will be brought under integrated conservation management involving the SANP The agreement could also contribute to rapid progress in the establishment of a transfrontier park in the region as the Makuleke Community has deep familial ties with adjacent communities in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. This agreement closes a chapter in the history of conservation in South Africa that saw no role for participation by indigenous communities in the management of sensitive environments.

Community ownership and participation: The innovative ecotourism agreement will benefit about 2 570 households. The community will own the land concerned and will enjoy full rights to develop the land for ecotourism ventures (subject only to principles of conservation). The financial revenue of such ventures will accrue to the community.

In all other respects they will be equal partners with the SANP. If no agreement can be reached on an aspect of management of the region the SANP has no veto: the deadlock breaking mechanisms in the agreement (at final stage involving independent arbitration) can be invoked.

The agreement does not lock the community into the partnership with the SANP forever. If it is fundamentally unhappy with it, it can end the contract park agreement after 25 years (with 5 years' notice). However, even if it ends the contract park agreement. it will still be bound In perpetuity by the provisions protecting the conservation status of the land.

· Mineral Rights: The Department of Minerals and Energy has agreed that the mineral rights will be reserved in favour of the state. Yet to protect the ecological integrity of the area prospecting and mining will be prohibited. If mineral rights are to be privatised at any stage, the community will have a preferred right to acquire them.

· Open ecological system: The fence separating the Kruger National Park, the Madimbo Corridor and the Makuya Park will be removed to allow wild animals access to the pristine wetlands along the Limpopo River. This arrangement does not affect the existing veterinary fence and control measures within the Madimbo Corridor.

· Defence: The SANDF, which has an operational base in the area, will continue to patrol the international boundary along the Limpopo River. subject to certain agreements with the JMB.

Issued by the office of the Land Claims Commissioner responsible for the Northern Province



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