S. Africa celebrates milestone in history of land restitution

2016-05-21 20:39:37 GMT2016-05-22 04:39:37(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

JOHANNESBURG, May 21 (Xinhua) -- South African President Jacob Zuma on Saturday led compensation and handover celebrations for various land claims, calling the move a milestone in the history of land restitution in the country.

At the ceremony taking part in the Kruger National Park (KNP) in northeastern South Africa, Zuma handed over 84 million rand (about 5.3 million U.S. dollars) to land claimants.

The claimants come from six communities from Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

More is yet to happen as this is only the first phase of the land redistribution process for the KNP, Zuma said.

"Today we are contributing to the reversal of the apartheid legacy by compensating six communities, three from Limpopo, and another three from Mpumalanga, all who were dispossessed through harsh apartheid laws," said Zuma.

The claims which the government was settling form part of the various land claims lodged by different communities from the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in respect of the Park, according to Zuma.

These were all lodged before the first window of opportunity for the lodgement of claims, prior to the 1998 cut-off date.

"We have come together about land, to restore the rights of our people who were dispossessed.

"Land has been a fundamental issue in the struggle for liberation," Zuma noted.

The South African cabinet made a decision in 2008 regarding equitable redress as the only option for settling all land claims at the KNP.

The decision paved the way for engagement with the affected communities, culminating in the resolution to settle the claims in two phases.

Phase 1 involved the awarding of financial compensation, while Phase 2 will involve a Beneficiation Scheme aimed at stimulating much needed economic activities within the affected municipal areas where the claimant communities reside.

"In our first phase, financial compensation is viable because Kruger National Park claimants are not able to return to their land. Government is thus compensating them in lieu of the improvements that they lost on the land, as guided by our policy," Zuma said.

The government, he said, remains committed to implementing the country's land restitution programme.

In order to ensure that everyone who lost land rights in the past as a result of past racially discriminatory laws and practices has an opportunity for redress, the lodgement of land claims has been reopened until June 30, 2019 to accommodate those who missed the initial cut-off deadline, Zuma said.

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