Makuleke Community Land Claims

Community view at Makuleke.
© Andrea Pellegrino

A brief history of the Makuleke Community Land Claims


Land claims, and the Makuleke (a Tsonga speaking tribe): In 1912 several Makuleke villages in the northern part of Singwidzi Game Reserve, (Pafuri area), had been relocated. Owing the scarcity of rangers in the northern part of the park, in time the Makuleke had moved back into parts of what was now a reserve.

In 1930, National Parks put forward a proposal to include the area between the Limpopo and the Levuvhu into the Kruger National Park. In 1933, the district was declared the Pafuri Game Reserve and was given to the National Parks Board to administer.

The area proposed by the Parks Board for the relocation of the Makuleke seemed so unsuitable that even a National Parks Board secretary, Van Graan, pleaded with board members, ‘Is it wise to take this step in view of the reputation of the alleged suppression of native races? It is obvious that Pafuri is better agriculturally than a dry piece of grazing land that we offer in exchange … frankly, I foresee in this gain of today, if we acquire the Pafuri, the future germ of destruction of the whole Park.'

In 1952, the Parks Board returned the Pafuri Game Reserve to provincial control, stating that the park was unworkable (as parts of the reserve surrounded the Makuleke, who still have not been moved). Unfortunately, in 1969, the Makuleke were removed to the Ntlavi area. At this time, the Pafuri Game Reserve was incorporated into the Kruger National Park.

Under the Restitution of Land Rights Act, in 1997, the Makuleke community demanded their rights to the Pafuri area. After 18 months of intensive negotiations, a settlement was reached. It was described by the South African National Parks Board and the claimants as ‘a world class agreement' and a ‘breakthrough' for conservation in South Africa.

In essence, the agreement provides for the following:

  • The land generally known as the Pafuri area has been returned to the community
  • In future no mining, farming or permanent residence may take place without permission of SA National Parks
  • Should the land ever be put up for sale, SANParks will have a right of first refusal
  • A contractual park has been established for a period of 50 years, provided that the parties can review the agreement after 25 years
  • A Joint Management Body will be responsible for the overall management of the area
  • All tourism and income-generating activities are subject to the management plan and will be monitored by SANParks
  • SANParks will be responsible for the day to day conservation activities while the community will be responsible for all tourism activities
  • Community members will be trained in conservation and tourism matters
  • SANParks will initially manage the area at it own cost, but once income is derived from tourist activities the community will share the costs
  • The area will be known as the Makuleke region within the larger Kruger National Park
  • The agreement also provides that some 5 000 hectares outside of the Kruger National Park which will be returned to the community, will also be included in the park. The Kruger National Park will actually be expanded because of this settlement



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