Gogo determined to get her land back
Octogenarian wants to expose the Ingonyama Trust, which she says stole her dream to help the disabled
Gogo Cecilia Sibisi has one thing on her bucket list – to get the land she was promised a decade ago.
She is blaming the loss of her land on the Ingonyama Trust, which administers 2.8 million hectares of land on behalf of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. The monarch is the sole trustee of the organisation which generates more than R100-million in revenue.
Sibisi says a local chief gave her a piece of land and some derelict buildings. Here she wanted to create a home for the elderly and disabled. But, after investing about R30,000 in renovations from a donation, Sibisi says she discovered that the land had also been given to a pastor.The 82-year-old Sibisi is now one of 16 people who have turned to the Legal Resources Centre to launch a challenge against the trust after it sent out notices to those residing on its land, asking them surrender their existing land rights into 40-year leases.
The octogenarian, from the small coastal town of Umgababa, about 36km south of Durban, registered the Nonkasa Senior Citizens and Disabled Community Project in 2006 to assist the elderly and disabled in the community.
Sibisi and a group of local women who were part of the project say they were given a small piece of unused land and derelict buildings for free by local chief Inkosi Phathisizwe Luthuli.They renovated the buildings with R30 000 donated by a construction company. But before they knew it, she claims that Luthuli had given the same piece of land to a pastor who wanted it for his church.
“The pastor told us that he had paid a lot of money for the land to the chief who had told him that we were useless,” said Sibisi.
She then turned to the Ingonyama Trust in a bid to enter into a lease agreement for the land. This lease agreement was approved in August 2016 after they had paid a R625 deposit.
But after six trips from Durban to Ingonyama Trust offices in Pietermaritzburg to get the lease agreement, they came back empty-handed after being told the agreement should not have been approved in the first place as the land belonged to Eskom.
The lease agreement was subsequently cancelled but their deposit was not refunded. Sibisi said they had spent about R35,000 of their own money for functions they organised for the elderly and disabled, the trips to and from Pietermaritzburg and the R625 deposit for the lease agreement.
Frustrated and angry, the women approached the Legal Resources Centre in Durban last year for help.
“We’re so bitter about it. When we get together we even cry. Inkosi Luthuli deprived us of so many opportunities. We worked so hard in that place. We’re so bitter to the extent that we’re going to sue him for that,” said an emotional Sibisi.
Neither Luthuli nor trust officials would comment.
LRC attorney Thabiso Mbhense said they were busy preparing a high court application in which “we will ask for an order demanding Ingonyama Trust to withdraw the advertisements [asking people to surrender their land]”.
The trust was established in 1994 to be the custodian of the land previously administered by the KwaZulu-Natal government.
In November, an independent high-level panel, headed by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, released a report recommending that the Ingonyama Trust Act be repealed or amended and that trust be dissolved.
The panel said the Ingonyama Trust Board had control over land in ways that “far surpass anything the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform has in all other provinces.”King Zwelithini and traditional leaders have vowed to challenge the panel’s recommendations. The king recently issued a strong warning against any attempts to dissolve the trust, saying Zulus should not be “provoked” and “abused” for their land.
The trust, which received an adverse opinion from the Auditor-General for failing to prepare its financial statements in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, generated R96-million in rental income from lease agreements in the 2015/2016 period.
Its financial results showed an increase of 14.31% in total revenue attributable to lease and investment income.
Motlanthe’s panel said there was little evidence that the revenue generated by leases was used for the benefit communities or their material well-being although the trust has built up very substantial reserves.
The trust leases its land to mining and prospecting operators.