Land Row: Residents Claim Entire African Town
A rural community in South Africa has laid claim to an entire town in one of the biggest land restitution cases since the end of apartheid.
Mika Mazwana: 'It's not about the money, it's about the land.'
The people of the Zimbane clan in the Eastern Cape say the town of Mthatha - one of the largest commercial centres in the province - was built on land confiscated from them during white rule.
The area being claimed includes numerous shopping centres, hotels, a prison and even the town's airport.
The community could be entitled to tens of millions of pounds in compensation if a court rules in their favour in a hearing next month.
"It's not about the money, it's about the land," said 86-year-old Mika Mazwana, gazing over the thousands of hectares towards Mthatha that his clan used to occupy before they were evicted to make way for white-owned businesses and farms.
"We were cheated out of our land."
The community is making the claim under South Africa's restitution laws, introduced in 1994 to try to correct some of the injustices of apartheid.
Privately-owned homes will not be affected by the claim
"We can prove that all of this land was historically ours," Phakamile Mamba, the man leading the claim, said. "So we are bound to win in court."
The Mthatha local authority, which owns the land being claimed, is fighting the case.
But Mr Mamba is so confident of victory that he has set up a trust that will invest the compensation money and oversee the development of any vacant land.
The Zimbane clan, one of the poorest in the Eastern Cape, could be transformed into one of the richest by the claim.
Most of the population of 80,000 live in tiny, brightly-painted, one-room brick homes dotted around the hillside overlooking Mthatha.
Emma Hurd reporting from Mthatha
The case has alarmed some of the town's residents and business owners because all property sales and development have been put on hold pending the outcome of the land claim.
"It's like a bombshell for us," Steve Rusteberg, the owner of a petrol station said. "We don't know what it's going to mean."
The Zimbane clan say privately-owned homes and businesses will not be affected by their claim as it only applies to publicly-owned land.
The policy of land reform in South Africa includes both the restitution of territory and the re-distribution of white owned farmland.
The process has moved slowly because the nation has favoured a system of negotiation and compensation rather than confiscation - a policy that has caused mayhem in neighbouring Zimbabwe.