By Rodney Mashego
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform visited the Mala-Mala CPA (Communal Property Association) in the community of Lillydale to gather information about the settlement and finalisation of the Mala-Mala land claim as well as the CPA dynamics and joint venture operations.
This comes after the Nwandlamharhi (Mala-Mala) land claimants wrote to the portfolio committee in dispute against the CPA’s interim committee, which they say wasn’t elected by them. The claimants say their leadership was elected based on nepotism, and that they have also employed their relatives from outside the community to work in the reserves.
“When we transferred the land and finalised the co-management in November 2013, there was one group which formed a CPA called Nwandlamharhi, whereby they elected two people (Derick Mthabile & Perry Sambo) who would then work hand in hand with us throughout the process, along with their representatives, Louis Du Plessis and Rudolph Jansen. The only condition was that all the 960 households would benefit”, said the Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo.
The claimants also said that only a few from the exact number (960 households) of the beneficiaries have received their monthly payments ever since 2014, and that they also want the committee to be dissolved with immediate effect and the CPA account frozen until a consensus is reached.
During the briefing session, one of the claimants, Linkie Moyana said; “Our CPA leadership is fraudulent and unofficial; they were not elected by us. Only one family is benefitting in terms of tenders, jobs, bursaries and other opportunities. Many people have died already and we might also die while waiting and hoping for better lives.”
The claimants also mentioned that about R44 million was reported to be “lost” by the executive, and that the community hall/office which was built by the CPA executive was said to have cost just over R18 million.
According to the portfolio committee, the Commission of Restitution of Land Rights paid a total of R1.1 billion to reclaim the land, which covers the Kruger National Park, on which more than 960 Nwandlamharhi households were meant to benefit.
“This land has been restituted to the people who were forcefully removed in various villages around this area but grouped themselves to form one CPA which is Nwandlamharhi (popularly known as Mala-Mala) and subsequently reclaimed the land. We’ve decided to visit the village after receiving several letters of complaints and also reading about the issue of Mala-Mala residents who are not benefitting from their claims and many other issues around the management not complying with the CPA acts, while others also raised dissatisfaction about the executive side-lining other beneficiaries from the monthly payments, bursaries, and other benefits”, said Phumzile Ngwenya-Mabila, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on rural development and land reform.
“There’s a lease rent of about R8.4 million that is paid on a yearly basis, there’s also the tourist levy so there is a lot of money that, by now, should have changed these people’s lives for the better. But then what we’ve managed to gather here today is that there is no consistency in distributing the funds, of which is a very serious problem because we cannot make laws and people just break them as they please, there’s also a CPA law which indicates that when a CPA executive’s term of office expires; they must facilitate and coordinate all the beneficiaries to an AGM (Annual General Meeting) to elect new leaders”, the chairperson added.
She also explained that, according to the commission, they had agreed that the money be paid into their lawyer’s account until a resolution was made with the CPA executive on the opening of an account specifically for the CPA, informing the claimants of how much there is, and how it would then be distributed equally to all the beneficiaries. “The chief land claims commissioner is hearing it for the first time that the CPA account has been opened while there is an interim committee in place, so this means there is a lot that needs to be observed with a critical eye”, Phumzile explained.
She further told Bushbuckridge News that there is a CPA unit under the national department which was supposed to train, give assistance as well as to monitor all of the 1500 CPA executives throughout the country, and that it was their duty to pick up such loopholes.
The committee concluded by saying that they will report back to parliament, discuss and investigate the mismanagement of funds and everything else in detail. They also mentioned that there is R16 million that is still available in the CPA account. They also suggested that the lawyer, Louis Du Plessis be summoned back to court to report how the money was split. They promised to report back to the claimants within a period of three months. The CPA’s interim executive was unavailable for comment.