Richtersveld settlement on the cards

A settlement has been reached on the Richtersveld community’s troubled land-restitution deal, lawyers said on Monday.

They said the settlement would be presented to Land Claims Court Judge Antonie Geldenhuys on Tuesday morning.

If Geldenhuys makes the settlement an order of court, it will end the Richtersvelders’ decade-long legal battle over diamond-rich land taken from them by the state in the 1920s.

“We’ve settled,” said Rudolph Jansen, national director of Lawyers for Human Rights.

“The court has already given its inputs, so it’s likely the agreement will be made an order of court tomorrow [Tuesday].”

Leaders of the Richtersveld Communal Property Association signed a settlement agreement with Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin in April.

However, when that agreement was brought to court for approval last month, a dissident group, the Richtersveld Action Committee, said its terms were problematic, and that it was not properly approved by the community.

Lawyers for Human Rights acted for the action committee, which was allowed to present its case in court.

Though the hearing was scheduled to continue on Monday, legal teams instead spent the day thrashing out a compromise behind closed doors.

Jansen said on Monday evening that the dispute had been resolved through a 12- or 13-page addendum to the April document.

A lawyer on the state team also confirmed that an “all-encompassing” draft settlement had been finalised.

The community lodged its claim in 1998 to 84 000ha of diamond-bearing land on the Namaqualand coast, and compensation for the gems extracted from it.

The April agreement proposed the return of the land to the community, a R190-million “extraordinary reparation” payment, millions more in development funding, and a joint venture with financially troubled state diamond mining company Alexkor.—Sapa

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