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Perhaps the most intriguing thing about SA’s most expensive land claim is that it should have never gone ahead at all.The 2017 report of the high-level panel on land, led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, notes that the claim on MalaMala, near Kruger National Park, was settled "despite the finding of the land claims court and an initial decision by the minister that land restoration would be unfeasible. The community, recently formed for the purpose of lodging the land claim, was also not in fact eligible for restitution."The original asking price for the land, under the willing-buyer, willing-seller model, was R751m. The government rejected this as too expensive, and the case was set for the Constitutional Court, for a potentially precedent-setting ruling on expropriation of land without compensation.But in an out-of-court settlement, the state agreed to pay a staggering R1.1bn — effectively wiping out the entire annual budget of the Land Claims Commission. This, in an area t...

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