City Press Review: This Land
Johannesburg - This Land is a short (48 minutes) documentary by Miki Redelinghuys that packs a big punch. It focuses on the plight of a village in Makhasaneni in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and highlights the larger issue of land restitution in South Africa.
During apartheid, the villagers were forcibly removed to make way for white farming and relocated to Makhasaneni near Melmoth, where they’ve been living, farming and burying their ancestors since. Now they face another threat of eviction from “an international company” looking to pursue opencast iron ore mining in the area.
The company is never mentioned by name in the doccie – perhaps for legal reasons – but a quick Google search will reveal it’s Jindal Africa, an Indian conglomerate.
In 2011, the community became aware of geologists inspecting their land. Next thing they knew, their water and soil were being poisoned by mining. To their dismay, they learnt their land had been sold to Jindal by their chiefs, who got the go-ahead from the Ingonyama Trust. The trust holds 2.8 million hectares of traditional land in KZN and has King Goodwill Zwelithini as its sole trustee.
“We see amaKhosi [the royal family] are selling land to ... foreigners to build mines. We are trying to show not only the chief but even the king that we are the landowners here, we are going to challenge it,” says activist Mbhekiseni Mavuso at the beginning of the film.
Redelinghuys includes two more examples where the royal family and the politically connected have developed and sold off land from under the feet of local communities.
In Babanango, 26 families found themselves suddenly surrounded by a game reserve after their land was bought by the KZN Heritage Council, commonly known as Amafa.
“The CEO of Amafa was so arrogant,” says activist Msizeni Magwaza. “I asked him: ‘We gave you land, how are we going to benefit?’ And he said, ‘You’ll benefit nothing from this project. This project belongs to big names, like the king … politicians … Not people like you, my boy.’ We’ve suffered a lot under names like heritage and tourism.”
Unfortunately, there’s no commentary from the royal family or Jindal in This Land, which deploys a very basic reportage style with no experimentation.
However, it’s a worrying and infuriating look at how the poor and dispossessed remain poor and dispossessed.
Watch the trailer here: