In South Africa, most of the protected areas were established under unjust laws which saw many people disposed of their land. The government, through its land restitution programme, seeks to redress the victims of land dispossession and correct the past imbalances of land rights unleashed by the apartheid laws.
SANParks acknowledges that some of its national parks were established under these unjust laws and therefore implements the land claims programme in collaboration with the Commission; to redress past injustices and restore land rights to the rightful owners. To this effect, a dedicated Land Clams office was established to facilitate and coordinate the negotiations and settlement of land clams lodged against a number of national parks in collaboration with the Land claims commission. Through the mutually agreed beneficiation packages, claimants are enabled to derive benefits from the use of their land for conservation and related value chain activities. They have access to ancestral land for spiritual and cultural practices and are offered preferential employment opportunities where applicable. The land claim programme, therefore, provides the opportunity to build bridges between national parks and communities, brings about healing and restores the dignity and sense of pride of land owners in national parks.
A number of contractual agreements signed between SANParks and the land claimants saw claimants becoming part of the management of the conservation areas. Joint Management Boards were established between National Parks and the claimants namely; Makuleke Joint Management Board for the management of Makuleke Region in the Kruger National Park Park; Kgalagadi National Park JMB and Richtersveld National Park JMB. The establishment of a Joint Management Board is also being negotiated with Riemvasmaak Community Development Trust in lieu of Melkbosrand land inside the Augrabies National Park. The contractual arrangement will be signed between Dithabeng CPA and SANParks in lieu of land claimed at Golden Gate Highlands National Park upon settlement of the land claim. Current benefits being derived through contractual agreements include benefits from tourism operations in the Makuleke region, income from iXaus lodge at Kgalagadi National Park, rental fees paid to Richtersveld community and the annual ex-.gratia amount paid to Riemvasmaak Community Development Trust. The claimants at Kgalagadi will also share in the income derived from the Dawid Kruiper lodge currently being constructed at Kgalagadi National Park.
Financial compensation was awarded to the claimants who opted for this form of settlement. These include; the portion of the claimants at Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Covie claimants at Tsitsikamma National Park and two of the three families at West National Park. Financial settlement for Hondeklip Bay will be finalised upon the finalisation of the legal entity by the Hondeklip Bay claimants.
Land rights were restored to the Sydney- on- Vaal Community on the former Vaalbos National Park, and the land was de-proclaimed and handed over to the community. SANParks is in the process of assisting the community in developing it as multiple land use. Arrangements for the provision of alternative land are in progress on the West Coast for the remainder of the claimants who opted for restoration of land rights. Negotiations for land rights restoration at Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) with COLCRA CPA are underway. The beneficiation package being developed will include a percentage income share at the Mathyolweni Rest Camp.
Other land claims in progress are at Kruger, Mapungubwe and Marakele National Parks.