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Claiming land

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					Claiming land

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WORK-IN-PROGRESS

Claiming land
Judith de Wolf (with Jester Maaboyi, Tessa Cousins, Chris Williams) Claiming land..................................................................................................................................... 1 1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 2 2 The Claim: who is claiming?............................................................................................ 3 Lists of claimants................................................................................................................. 4 Claimants and advocacy ..................................................................................................... 5 3 History and identity politics around land claim............................................................ 5 4 Structures............................................................................................................................ 7 5 Key issues arising .............................................................................................................. 8 References................................................................................................................................. 9

1 Introduction Amongst the 3000 outstanding land claims in Mpumalanga Province, claim number KRP9366 is the Moreipušo land claim. The Moreipušo land claim brings together people who nowadays live dispersed throughout the Bushbuckridge area and beyond. They were forcefully removed from four farms at the foot of the Drakensberg in the 1960s and 1970s. The Moreipušo land claim is characterised by ambiguity and contesting perspectives regarding its status, who is involved, and who are the legitimate beneficiaries. Just before the closure date for land claims submissions in December 1999, the four farms involved have been claimed by individuals as well as a collective which has since evolved into both a Trust and a Communal Property Association (CPA). These two organisations have partially overlapping membership and conflicting views on who are the legitimate claimants and thus beneficiaries. Meanwhile the Regional Land Claims Commission regards the CPA as the rightful representative of the Moreipušo land claim, but seems ignorant of the specific land involved and the phase in which the restitution process for each farm is. Currently the four farms are under forestry. Despite all the ambiguity concerning the land claim, one thing is clear: this land is going to be part of the extended Blyde River Canyon National Park.1 However, the implications of this future land use for the local population and for governance of the resources are unclear. The elusiveness of key stakeholders in the restitution process, suggests that substantial benefits are anticipated and, arguably, the process gives rise to opportunistic behaviour by some of these stakeholders. Experience of restitution cases elsewhere in the province is that those in control sell off land or rights to their own, rather than community members’ benefit.

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Recently we have heard that the Mpumalanga Parks Board is considering to put the land back under forestry although it is not clear whether this concerns all the land under claim.

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WORK-IN-PROGRESS The following pages report on the work in progress on the Moreipušo land restitution process. The section hereafter describes who is actually claiming. The third section will briefly elaborate on the history of the area, the inhabitants and the politics of ethnic identity that form a significant factor in this land claim. The section thereafter discusses the formal structures involved. Finally, a brief overview of the issues that are arising forms section 5. The writing is mainly based upon interviews with several claimants, the leadership of the Trust, the CPA and the Heritage council as well as ‘local leaders’. In addition, one meeting of the Trust was attended and some documents were reviewed. The purpose of the current document is to give a brief overview of the land claim, the people involved and its history and to discus the possible implications. Although not all inhabitants of Craigieburn are claimants in this particular land claim (and far from all claimants are inhabitants of Craigieburn), the settlement and future land use will affect all villagers, as it is the main source of diverse natural resources, such as firewood and it is an important area for cattle grazing. In addition, AWARD has been involved in the development of the plans for the extension of the Blyde River Canyon National Park, which may have significant implications for what happens downstream – hence it may affect the farmers in the wetlands with whom AWARD is working. All in all it should be recognised that the process and outcome of this land claim has repercussions for the governance project in particular and AWARD’s work in general.

2 The Claim: who is claiming? According to the leadership of the Motlamogele Community Development Trust, the Moreipušo land claim covers four farms; Hebron, Vooruitsig, Welgevonden and Onverwacht.2 However, the Regional Land Claims Commission’s records only reveal claims against two farms – no claims have been lodged against the Hebron and Vooruitsig farms according to the commission. This discrepancy in the number of farms claimed is matched by differing views regarding the status of the claim. Whereas local stakeholders agree that the eligibility of the claimants has been verified, official records do not reflect this. The commission’s administration merely mentions ‘validation stage’ for Welgevonden farm, and ‘investigation stage’ for Onverwacht.3 Not only the area claimed and the status of the claim is uncertain, it is also not clear who exactly is involved. Land claims are identified by an administrative reference number of the Regional Land Claims Commission (RLCC), and three of such numbers appear to have

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The farms are identified by the following numbers: Hebron (461kt), Vooruitsig (499kt), Welgevonden (465kt) and Onverwacht (501kt). (JM & JdW have seen the documentation.) 3 Fax RLCC to TRAC, dd. 25/01/2008.

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WORK-IN-PROGRESS been issued to two individuals4 and a collective, represented by a local church leader, Rev. Mokoena. The church leader claims to have attempted to collaborate with the two individual claimants, but failed to do so. Subsequently, he continued with his collective claim and established a Trust, the Motlamogale Community Development Trust, which became official in February 2007. He is not on the board of trustees, yet he does have an influential position within the Trust. The formation of the trust was not unproblematic. Conflicts escalated, resulting in the almost simultaneous formation of a Communal Property Association (CPA),5 the Mahubahuba bakone CPA6, which became official in September 2007.7 The CPA is chaired by one of the individual claimants, Mr. Laurence Mogakane. Whether this means that his individual claim and the collective claim have now been integrated, is not clear. Nor is it clear whether the other individual claimant – who is not a member of the Trust – has joined the CPA.

Lists of claimants The Motlamogale Community Development Trust has a list of just over 700 verified claimants, which means that their family trees (genealogies) have been checked and their origin from the mountains has been formally established. Although this is well known among the local people involved, the Commission’s records (in our possession) reveal no official awareness of the verification process.8 In contrast to the Trust whose ‘membership’ consists of claimants only, the membership of the Mahubahuba bakone CPA is probably not restricted to claimants only. It is said that the CPA memberships consists partly of the same people who are registered as claimants with the Trust.

One individual (Mr. Laurence Mogakane, resident of Hazyview) has an individual claim on Hebron, the other man (Mr. Phoku from Zoeknog) has an individual claim in ‘Mapulaneng’. [Check whether this is on exactly the same land] 5 Some people allege that people of the RLCC have been involved in the establishment of the CPA and are still involved in the running of it. [Check date of establishment.] 6 According to the leadership of the Trust the name Mahubahuba bakone was going to be used for the Trust. Mahubahuba is a certain tree, ‘bakone’ means ‘nation’ or ‘the people’. Motlamogale refers to a river running through the area. 7 Check date of CPA establishment. 8 JdW and JM have seen the list of verified claimants including their family trees. A fax from RLCC to TRAC, (dd. 25/01/2008) is taken as a reflection of the commission’s records.

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WORK-IN-PROGRESS Claimants and advocacy Initially an NGO called Nkuzi, working especially on issues around land, was operating in the Bushbuckridge area. In 2000, a fieldworker of this NGO reported to have problems explaining the complexities of land claims to the people, particularly as there are conflicting claims, and he did not want to be seen siding with any particular side.9 However, with the transfer of the Bushbuckrigde area from Limpopo to Mpumalanga (in 2007?), Nkuzi withdrew from the area. Zamangwane Consultants have been involved in the process of verification of the claimants, their family histories and family graves on the mountains – in some cases, the ruins of homesteads were still found in the mountains. This was done late 2005, the list of ‘verified’ claimants was finalized early 2006. Within the governance project AWARD and LEAP are collaborating with TRAC – a Nelspruit-based NGO promoting human rights, tenure rights and sustainable development in Mpumalanga Province.

3 History and identity politics around land claim To understand better the nature of the claim and its meaning for local people it is useful to briefly consider the area’s settlement history and the changing position of the Pulane people – the majority of the claimants (background) – in the Bushbuckridge area. Local narratives on the land claim (and accounts of settlement) are – as expected – linked to people’s perspectives on the history and settlement. Pulane people stress their seniority in the area. They emphasize being the earliest settlers which is possibly fed by a sense of being marginalised in local and national political economy in more recent times. When the Pulana were driven from their homeland near Waterval Boven, most fled to Sekhukhuneland, but one group (led by the grandson of the deceased chief) came to the area around Acornhoek. They defeated the chiefs of the residents here and incorporated their people. They then went up the mountain of Moholoholo (Niehaus 2001:17-8), from where the Pulana fought and defeated the Swazi’s in a locally well-known battle in 1864. It is this bloodshed victory that forms the basis of the Pulana’s claim on land. “The claim to land was based on an ideology which asserted that ownership of land came through
Nkuzi Development Association used to have an office in Acornhoek from where they developed activities aimed at informing the public in general on the restitution process, assisting communities and advising. Nkuzi was more involved with a few communities who had actively sought them out to be their clients, such as Moletele. With the transfer of Bushbuckridge from Limpopo to Mpumalanga, Nkuzi withdrew. No one of the Craigieburn claimants I spoke with remembers Nkuzi or their fieldworkers. Moreover, for claimants in Craigieburn it only began around 2004 when they were called to meetings, had to fill forms and eventually identify family graves on the mountain.
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WORK-IN-PROGRESS conquest and the shedding of blood… the ideology linked land to the divine authority of the ancestors.” (Ritchken 1995:223 cited in Niehaus 2001: 212) From the 1880s diverse Tsonga-speaking groups moved into the Lowveld, including a large group of Shangaan who were welcomed and permitted to settle on unoccupied lands east of Setlhare. Although some Shangaan lived under their own headmen and were said to be more inward-looking as a group, “they were never disloyal to the Pulane chiefs” (Niehaus 2001: 18-19). The enactment of the Native Land Act in 1913, resulted in increased population pressure on the land. Even though the area then developed into a labour reserve, mainly for the South African mines, “agricultural pursuits were valued more highly than migrant labour” (Niehaus 2001:20). Extended family households could produce enough to feed themselves and sell surpluses to pay rent and taxes. In the late 1930s pressure on land further increased as a result of the aforestation of the slopes of the mountains. This and the expulsion of tenants from the white-owned farms forced more people into the lowveld, both from here and further away (mix of people). This additional settlement of so many outsiders combined with plagues of locust and commando worm and drought, dramatically reduced the option of agricultural production as a livelihood pursuit. It forced many men into labour migration. Soon labour migration became a career and agricultural production a mere supplement to the migrants’ wages (Niehaus 2001: 19-21). The Forestry Department continued to evict people from their land and as mechanisation reduced the demand for labour on the white-owned farms, these labourers and tenants were forced into the already densely populated Bushbuckridge area (Niehaus 2001: 21). At this time also the people from Hebron and the adjacent farms were forcefully removed to make way for forestry.10 In the 1950s the Native Affairs Department initiated a change of land use by demarcating residential and agricultural plots much smaller than what people used to have; most households were left with about one third of what they used to have. Therefore it became virtually impossible to produce enough for subsistence. The decreasing importance of the land for agricultural purposes is also reflected in the decline of local institutions governing land use and use of natural resources; many taboos and customs regarding land use are no longer observed or not even remembered.
This is locally remembered as a removal done not by the forestry department but by a particular man, named Prinsloo. [Check Niehaus’ date and areal photographs SP]
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After 1960 agricultural betterment, Bantu Authorities and the Batustan system resulted in further socio-economic changes with severe impact on local communities and society. With the second agricultural betterment scheme, it was now officially recognized that not everyone could subsist from agriculture. This was also the time that people in the village of Craigieburn were moved again to demarcated stands and their fields were plotted.
“Before we used to live as a group but it does no longer exist and we are not staying far attached from each other. Being chased from the mountain has broken us apart.” (Old man from Craigieburn, October 2007)

With formation of Bantustans, the Pulane became squeezed in by the Mhala area of the Gazankulu homeland on the east and the mountains on the west. This and being part of the scattered Lebowa homeland has contributed to a sense of being more and more marginalised. The reading of history of the Mapulane Heritage Council is that the Shangaan, outsiders who came from Mozambique, have been much more compliant with the apartheid regime, were therefore favoured and benefited much more, etc. They pride themselves on non-compliance and refusal to cooperate with the apartheid regime, resulting in being neglected and almost written out of history.11

4 Structures At present there seem to be two main structures asserting their legitimacy in the claim on Hebron, Vooruitsig, Welgevonden and Onverwacht; the Motlamogale Community Development Trust and the Mahubahuba bakone Communal Property Association. The RLCC is proposing to settle the claim with the CPA. According to the people of the Trust, those who are currently in the CPA are not all evicted from the mountains and some are local politicians, just trying to gain from the restitution. The people in Craigieburn seem rather confused about the different organisations. On top of the misunderstandings about the Trust, the CPA, the procedure etc, there is a basic distrust amongst the people, towards each other and more pronounced towards those in ‘leadership’ positions. Also the Trust and the CPA are very suspicious of one another although the people of both the Trust and the CPA portray themselves as being open and in the right. It seems like hardly anyone fully understands the complex situation and obscure processes.

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See also Niehaus (2002).

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WORK-IN-PROGRESS In Craigieburn both claimants and non-claimants suspect that the money paid as compensation has already disappeared. Others seem afraid that the money will go to the chief only and not to the people themselves.12 The official, who is handling the Moreipusho land claim at the commission, has stood people up at appointments, refused to give them information and most recently, he has told the people of the Trust that the government is supporting CPAs only and therefore the claim will be granted to the Mahubahuba bakone CPA. He advised the people of the Trust to hand their members over to the CPA. People associated with the Trust accuse the people of the CPA of stealing the membership list of their Trust. So the RLCC has now overtly taken the decision to support CPAs. One of the reasons is that it is very difficult for the beneficiaries to call the trustees of a trust to account – for anyone outside the Trust it is nearly impossible. The CPA members on the contrary, can quite easily ask for an investigation or intervention by the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) – at least in theory.13 Recent experiences with Trusts in restitution claims in Mpumalanga Province confirm such concerns as being valid. Although in itself this might be a very reasonable standpoint, the RLCC uses unreasonable arguments to exclude the Trust in this particular case. From recent interaction, another official from the RLCC informed TRAC that the Commission would not accept the Trust as – according to him – it was only established by a few people and did not have extensive consultation with the claimants about its formation. The RLCC held a one-day workshop on legal entities with the claimants and the next week they adopted the CPA constitution with a new leadership. It is unlikely that this decision can be challenged on the basis of an existing Trust (per comm. C. Williams 30/04/2008). Nevertheless, it is clear that the CPA is not well formed either, and most likely would need assistance around governance issues.

5 Key issues arising The claim concerns people evicted from a specific area yet over time these people have spread over a larger area. AWARD/LEAP is concerned with the people in Craigieburn, but not all inhabitants of Craigieburn are claimants in the first place and even if they are claimants they might be claiming land elsewhere. However, the land under claim is used by all people from Craigieburn to collect natural resources and for grazing. Its future use will therefore affect all inhabitants of Craigieburn. People express concern that the ‘common people’ will not benefit from the settlement of the claim. The future of that land, the
People are unaware of the fact that when it comes to land restitution, the chief is just like any other person and no chief can claim land on behalf of his/her people. 13 More background on government’s preference for CPA? And/or the advantages and disadvantages of CPA and Trust?
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WORK-IN-PROGRESS natural resources on it and the livelihoods of the people in Craigieburn are bound together – there are opportunities here for the future as well as real dangers, e.g. local people being excluded from the using or benefitting from that land. Since people lack up-to-date information, it would be useful to provide feedback to the community as clearly as possible (empowerment). As the governance project is seeking to improve or set up structures or processes for management of natural resources, it is relevant to know and if possible, work with, those who will have authority on visioning and planning for future land use. There will be a situation of different owners and authorities on land and resources used by the same people – but both under some form of ‘communal’ system. Thus we seek to understand, and so that we can identify who to try to work with. Furthermore there is need to follow-up the developments around the establishment of a national park vs putting the land back under forestry. It has been said that an official from Mpumalanga Tourism and Park Agency (MTPA) has held a workshop with the CPA about development options. This would indicate a serious conflict of interest since the MTPA would want the land naturally to be part of a reserve and thus facilitation of a workshop on development options would encourage the CPA to choose this land use option.

References
James, D. 2000 'Hill of Thorns: Custom, knowledge and the reclaiming of a lost land in the new South Africa', Development and Change 31: 629-649. Niehaus, I. 2001 Witchcraft, power and politics. Exploring the occult in the South African Lowveld, London: Pluto Press. Niehaus, I. 2002 ‘Ethnicity and the boundaries of belonging: Reconfiguring Shangaan identity in the South African Lowveld’, African Affairs, 101: 557-583. James, D. 2006 Gaining ground? ‘Rights’ and ‘property’ in South African land reform. Routledge Cavendish; Wits University Press, Johannesburg.

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