Lohatlha land dispute settled


A long-running land dispute involving the South African Army Combat Training Centre (CTC) at Lohatlha in the Northern Cape has seemingly ended. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has found alternative land to settle some of the community displaced by the 158 000 hectare base and training area in 1977.

The Business Day reports some members of the Maremane and the Gatlhose community are to be resettled on alternative land at a cost of R59.5 million, while others will receive financial compensation worth R35.5 million in total. Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Thulas Nxesi handed over the first cheques at a ceremony on Sunday.

The broadsheet adds the Land Claims Court in 2002 declared that the restoration of the land was not feasible and the Supreme Court of Appeal later upheld the ruling because the land was contaminated with unexploded ordnance. The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported in March 1999 that Denel subsidiary Mechem had undertaken a feasibility study that estimated that clearing the training area of the unexploded munitions would then have costed the state about R70 million.

According Nxesi’s department, the Maremane lost 12 million hectares of land and the Gatlhose lost 49.8 million hectares, in what was then known as the Maremane-Gatlhose Native Reserve, the Business Day adds. The Gatlhose were relocated in 1977 to the former Bophuthatswana homeland because of their Tswana ancestry. The community opted for a combination of financial compensation, alternative land for agricultural purposes, housing development and development of schools and clinics. Out of 1018 households, 638 chose financial compensation and 380 opted for resettlement.

The M&G added the Army valued the base at R90 million and considered it a valuable national asset. The CTC was established in January 1978 as the SA Army Battle School to provide a training and manoeuvre area for formations up to division level. The training area measured 60km along its north-south axis and 35km from east to west. The base area can accommodate 13 units of 1000 troops each. It also had five hectares of under-roof parking, 48 hectares of vehicle parks and fresh water tanks capable of holding 44 million litres. The sewerage system could handle the waste of 30 000 people. Each unit area has ablution facilities with hot and cold running water, flushing toilets as well as kitchens.

Pic: Part of the CTC unit lines at Lohatlha as seen during Exercise Golfinho in September last year.