Richtersvelders to celebrate return of land

After a decade-long struggle in the courts and after being forced off their land more than 80-years-ago, Richtersvelders will on Saturday celebrate the return of their land in a handing over ceremony in Alexander Bay.

Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin and Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana will hand over to the community the deeds to 194 600ha, including an 84 000ha coastal strip of diamond-bearing land currently being mined by state-owned Alexkor.

The handing over will be a symbolic end to the community’s fight to return to their land.

”There is no doubt whatsoever that the Richtersveld community has won this issue, and we are delighted that they have. We feel comfortable that we have settled,” Erwin said on Tuesday.

Last month the Land Claims Court signed the historic Richtersveld land claim settlement agreement between government and the community into law.

The community lodged its claim to the land, which included compensation for diamonds extracted from it since the 1920s, in 1998.

The state would also make an ”extraordinary reparation payment” of R190-million to a community-owned investment company, a R50-million development grant and also transfer Alexkor’s operations to the community.

The mine-owned town of Alexander Bay would be transferred to the community, and Alexkor would pay R45-million to continue housing its staff there for the next decade.

Erwin also said on Tuesday that the Richtersveld community could convert their minority share in the joint mining venture with Alexkor into complete ownership of land mining rights.

He said it was not in the community’s interest to take up its full rights on the company immediately.

”To do that now would not be in the best interests of the community because it would be then responsible for the capitalisation and the development of the mine,” Erwin said.

Alexkor and the community would soon enter into a joint mining venture, in which Alexkor would hold a 51% interest and to which the state would contribute R200-million in capitalisation. — Sapa

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