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South Africa pays $5.8 million for displaced land

South Africa pays $5.8 million for Kruger National Park land displacement that occurred under apartheid CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AFKI) — The South African government, last week, paid $5.8 million to the families of original land owners in Kruger

South Africa pays $5.8 million for Kruger National Park land displacement that occurred under apartheid

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AFKI) — The South African government, last week, paid $5.8 million to the families of original land owners in Kruger National Park whose land was taken from them under apartheid.

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President Jacob Zuma said land compensation will restore the rights and dignity of those who have been dispossessed under apartheid, which was abolished in 1994.

Nearly 800,000  acres of land was taken from hundreds of families at the 4.5 million acre Kruger National Park after passage of the 1913 Land Act, three years after South Africa gained its independence from Great Britain.

Under the Land Act, which began a government policy of territorial segregation, Black South Africans were forcibly removed from rural areas designated as “White” to Bantustans homelands designated for them, and their land sold at low prices to White farmers. From 1961 to 1994, more than 3.5 million people were forcibly removed from their homes to Bantustans, where they were plunged into poverty and hopelessness.

In 1998, 17 property claims were filed against Kruger National Park for land lost by relatives.The communities compensated included three from Limpopo and three from Mpumalanga.

President Zuma said land is paramount to the survival of South Africans.

“From land, we derive our existence, our wealth, minerals, food and other essentials. From land, we build our homes and without land we cannot exist,” he said.

But Zuma cited Kruger National Park — a game reserve, national heritage and major tourist site, and home to many animal species — as reasoning for the cash compensation instead of resettlement by people with in the park’s boundaries.

But some people are not satisfied with money in exchange for the land their relatives lost. They argue money can never replace land ownership.

One disenchanted claimant, Nelson Mona says most of the land in South Africa is owned by a minority.

“In South Africa, you have a concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few people. That is something we have to correct,” Nelson said.

Perry Sambo, a 63-year-old school teacher and claimant, whose parents were removed from Kruger Park before he was born, recalls stories of hardship handed down to him.

“It was very difficult. Transport was very scarce and they did not get any assistance … some of their belongings they had to leave because they could not carry everything. They also lost cattle on the way that were eaten by lions,” he said.

Experts estimate approximately 20 million acres of farmland have been transferred to Black owners since the end of apartheid — a third of the African National Congress’s 30 percent target.

The party, which faces local elections in August has said it will speed up the transfer of land with a bill through Parliament allowing the state to expropriate land — which still remains predominantly in White hands two decades after the end of apartheid — without the owner’s consent.

Some farmers and economists fear the policy could adversely affect investment and production at a time when South Africa is emerging from a major drought, pointing to the economic damage linked to farm seizures in neighboring Zimbabwe.

Nompumelelo Ngubeni/AFK Insider.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. contributed to this story.

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