Higher yearning: families block varsity's bid for land
The matter of land is at the heart of the latest drama to hit the University of Zululand
The University of Zululand’s bid to obtain a title deed for the land on which it was built hangs in the balance if the families who were forcibly removed to make way for the institution are not compensated.
The beleagured university has faced numerous controversies, including an alleged sex-for-degree scandal and being placed under administration following allegations of mismanagement.
Now the university is embroiled in fresh drama over the title deed.
Some families who were removed in the 1950s under the Group Areas Act have accused local Inkosi Mandla Mkhwanazi of not consulting them when he supported the transfer of the land ownership from the South African Development Trust to the university.
In September 2017 the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mtose Xoliswa Mtose, wrote to Mkhwanazi requesting that he give them an endorsement letter in support of the transfer of land to the university.
She said the university would then forward the letter to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the transfer would lead to an issuing of a title deed, making the university the owner of the land.Mkhwanazi endorsed the transfer of the land and gave the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform the go-ahead to proceed with the transfer of the land to the university.
He confirmed that there was a process to issue a title deed to the university, which was being handled together with the Ingonyama Trust which adminsters 2.8 million hectares of land in KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.
“Together with the Ingonyama Trust we will brief the community about this issue. We want to do justice so that the land must be returned. If the university has to lease the land then it must lease it,” he said.However, Mkhwanazi said the people cannot be compensated by the university but by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.He revealed that a land claim lodged by the late Inkosi Mbhantokayise Mkhwanazi in April 1997 on behalf of the Mkhwanazi clan, which also involved the university land, had been declared valid but they were still waiting for feedback on how the people would be compensated.
The claimed land includes vast swathes of commercial forest land and farm land as well as land leased by the university.
A matter of compensation
But some families who spoke to Times Select said they were not aware that the university had requested a title deed for the land they were forcibly removed from, and that Mkhwanazi had endorsed it.
While the families said they were not against the university being granted the title deed, they still wanted to be compensated for their land.
Herbert Dube, 68, a member of the Dube family which was removed from the land, said that as a family they were concerned about their ancestral graves, which were destroyed during the construction of the university.
“We were forcibly removed from the land and it was very painful but we were not compensated. It is our view that since the government now is talking about compensation and giving land back to the people, that we should also be consoled by way of compensation. We are not saying the university must move,” he said.He said only a few of their ancestral graves were still visible, and that they were happy that the university had fenced them off and not tampered with them.
“We appreciate that the university has fenced off the few graves that are remaining and, if that could remain like that, then we won’t have a problem getting the title deed for the land.”
Dube's sister, Zethu Dludla, 61, said: “We wish to go there to erect one tombstone in remembrance of all our ancestors buried there. But as a family we are still paining about our father’s houses which were demolished. We still become emotional when we talk about that.
“I was very young but I can still vividly remember the Afrikaner who was there clad in khaki and I was holding onto my father’s leg and he was saying to my father, if you don’t want to move, we’ll demolish your house with your children inside and they will be buried in the rubble.”But Mdu Dlamini, whose family was also removed, said no one in the community wanted the university to be given the title deed.
“What we want to happen is that those people who were removed should be compensated or be given job opportunities at the university.”
The university was recently given a memorandum of a list demands from the community which also included the issue of compensation for those people who were removed to make way for it.
The university and Ingonyama Trust did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Vela Zimele Mngwengwe, chief director: property management and advisory services in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, confirmed that the university had approached Minister Gugile Nkwinti for the transfer of land.
“On the status of the matter, the minister approved the possible transfer of the subject property to the University of Zululand in July 1997. The approval was however conditional on, among other things, various bodies or persons being supportive of the transaction.
“Such persons or bodies included what was then described as the local tribal authority, which I believe is now known as the Mkhwanazi Traditional Council. It seems that such support was never obtained,” he said.“There is now a separate, but related, issue about whether the farm is one of the properties that should have been transferred to the KwaZulu-Natal Ingonyama Trust. This is impacting on who must transfer the subject property to the university, or, at worst, whether there’s still willingness to have the land transferred to the university.
“The university appears to have been in discussions with the Mkhwanazi Traditional Council and the KZN Ingonyama Trust with a view to achieve the transfer of land to itself. Our department is currently in discussions with the university and will also be talking to the KZN Ingonyama Trust Board with a view to reach finality on the matter.”The university’s attempt to secure the title deed was brought into question, with some former academics questioning management's decision to confer a doctorate on Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini on Friday.
Former Unizul academic Musa Xulu, who is now a businessman, said: “The University of Zululand, probably one of the most confused universities this side of the equator, if not in the world, has decided to honour our king with an honorary doctorate. An honorary doctorate is an honoris causa offered by the university through the senate, which is the highest academic decision-making body at a university.”
He said the the university had previously honoured the king in 1994 when it conferred an honorary degree in agriculture to him and that the decision to confer a second smacked of wrongdoing.
• The University of Zululand was established in 1960 with a first intake of 41 students, including five women, and officially opened the following year in a ceremony attended by 280 dignitaries, including tribal chiefs and diplomats from Switzerland, Brazil and Austria.