On the 14th of May 2015, 60 men and women from the Luthuli Tribe at KwaMaphumulo, led by their Chief and headmen, stormed the office of the Regional Land Claims Commission in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal. This was an act of people who were angry, and could no longer accept the false promises after 20 long years of waiting for their claim to be settled. They presented a memorandum outlining their demands, and gave the Commission 14 days within which it was to have given satisfactory responses. This has come to pass. The Commission responded by committing to process the claim on the land that did not have overlapping claims.
In 1995, the community of KwaMaphumulo under the Luthuli Tribal Council lodged a land claim with the Regional Office of the Land Claims Commission in Pietermaritzburg. Mr Mthandeni Dlamini, the Commission’s officer in charge of this claim told the community that the delay had been due to their claim overlapping with other claims from neighbouring communities. An overlapping claim occurs when two or more different claimants lay claims on the same property. In the case of KwaMaphumulo, the neighbouring communities under different Chiefs have also laid claim on the same farm that the people of KwaMaphumulo have.
It is unimaginable that the overlapping claims could cause such a long delay. Under normal circumstances, it should be the function of a research process that the Commission is required to undertake shortly after receiving claims to resolve such issues. It is not abnormal for the claims to overlap given that the forced removals drove people in different directions. Therefore it is possible for people from different areas to lay valid claims on the same farm. When that happens, it is the duty of the Land Claims Commission to bring the parties together and facilitate a resolution. If that process proves difficult, the Commission may, after consultation with the claimants, proceed with the non-overlapping part of the claim whilst the contested part is still being dealt with. But for the Regional Land Claims office in Pietermaritzburg, it had to take a drastic step such as a march to get this done. According to the letter dated 1 June 2015, signed by Mr. Mthandeni Dlamini, the Regional Land Claims Commission in Pietermaritzburg will proceed with the resolution of the non-overlapping portion of the Luthuli Claim. Hopefully, this is not another empty promise.
It is almost certain that if the community of KwaMaphumulo did not march, their claim would still be sitting and gathering dust in the Commission’s shelves. The claimants of Mfulamuhle in UMzimkhulu had a similar experience, until they also had to go in numbers to the Commission’s office to demand action. It therefore makes one wonder how many more claims are sitting unattended in the Regional Land Claims offices around the country.