‘Limpopo provincial govt should stop restricting our hunting rights,’ says Makuya hunting community
The Makuya communities which contributed the land to Makuya Nature Reserve denounced and dismissed the meeting as illegal.
Johannesburg, South Africa-The Limpopo Provincial Government of South Africa is in a seemingly endless conflict with the community it serves [Makuya Hunting Community], whose residents contributed the land into Makuya Nature Reserve where international hunting should take place, and are complaining that “the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism (LEDET) is needlessly continuing to restrict our hunting rights since 2019”, writes Emmanuel Koro.
“Since the cancellation of our hunting permits by LEDET in 2019, we have been denied our hunting rights and benefits from the huntable wildlife that exists in our Makuya Nature Reserve, comprising land that was contributed by six local villages,” said one of the Makuya community leaders from villages that contributed land in the Makuya Nature Reserve in a complaint statement this month that was released on condition of anonymity for fear of possible victimisation.
“After LEDET cancelled our hunting rights permit, they arrested our professional hunter, accusing him of illegal hunting, which the court cancelled because there was no case at the first instance after they had agreed that Makuya Community should be granted permission to exercise its hunting rights in the same way that all the white people around Kruger National are currently benefiting from hunting businesses.”
The Makuya leader said that before the cancellation of their hunting licence, Makuya Community was “also not treated fairly.”
“LEDET only allowed us to hunt up to September annually, while the white-owned safari hunting companies operating in the same area, around Kruger National Park were allowed to hunt all year round,” said the Makuya Community resident.
The court ruling that Makuya Community should be granted its hunting rights didn’t end the conflict between Makuya and LEDET.
“In September 2019, LEDET suddenly stopped honouring the hunting protocol/agreement which it had signed,” said another Makuya community leader from one of villages which contributed land in the Makuya Nature Reserve who also requested to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.
“Considering that LEDET was not honouring the co-management signed between LEDET and the Community, we as the Makuya’s six villages which contributed the land into Makuya Nature Reserve in great disappointment cancelled the co-management agreement in May 2021 and requested LEDET to vacate the Makuya Nature Reserve.
“Disappointingly, LEDET refused to leave.
“When the agreement expired in December 2021 the Makuya Community refused to renew it, insisting that LEDET leaves the Makuya Nature Reserve.
“The LEDET initially agreed to leave, but until today they are still at the Makuya Nature Reserve, illegally.”
Meanwhile the LEDET Member of Executive Council (MEC), Honourable Mr Rodgers Monama said that he was aware of the LEDET Makuya Hunting Community conflict but denied that LEDET was occupying the Makuya Nature Reserve illegally. He also denied that LEDET was restricting Makuya it’s hunting rights.
“There is no truth in your [Makuya Traditional Council] assertion that LEDET is denying Makuya communities their rights to hunt,” said MEC Monana. “Since LEDET and Makuya entered partnership arrangements, LEDET has been allocating hunting quotas to Makuya communities as part of a community beneficiation package.
“There have been however challenges around allocating and removal of hunting quotas which the parties in the coming meeting will try to resolve.”
The Makuya Community leader who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being harmed by enemies of Makuya Community agrees with MEC Monana that there were big problems with the allocation of hunting quotas.
“LEDET has never complied with the signed co-management agreement, said the Makuya community leader.” “In 2021 they issued a hunting quota consisting of female animals knowing that it is illegal to hunt female animals. Only male animals can be hunted.”
MEC Monama who was appointed to lead LEDET in October 2022, admitted that he had been made aware of the ongoing conflict between Makuya and LEDET and he would like to resolve it.
“There is a meeting planned between Makuya Traditional Council and LEDET for the two parties to further engage on the review of Makuya co-management agreement and finalisation of the declaration of Makuya Nature Reserve,” said MEC Monama.
“The issues you raised above will undoubtedly be part of the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the two parties.”
However, the Makuya communities which contributed the land to Makuya Nature Reserve denounced and dismissed the meeting as illegal.
“LEDET requested a meeting with the Makuya Traditional Council on 20 September 2023 but it was nullified by the Makuya Traditional Council executive because the LEDET MEC agreed that Makuya royal family members (Mrs Tshifularo Margaret Muthige, her kids and her sisters, Mr T.N. Makuya and other Makuya royal family members) can attend the meeting together with a former ANC councillor and other people unrelated to Makuya Nature Reserve matters; which is illegal,” said a Makuya resident who opted not to be named following death threats made at the failed meeting.
“One of the Makuya Traditional Council members was even harassed and threatened with death by a royal family relative who is a policewoman, at the nullified meeting.”
Mrs Tshifularo Margaret Muthige declined to respond to allegations that “she is no longer supporting demands that the LEDET should grant Makuya Community its hunting licence, yet she used to do so in the past.”
Asked if he was aware of the complaints from the Makuya Community that "the LEDET is supporting an unnamed person to hijack the Makuya Community’s hunting rights and ownership of Makuya Nature Reserve" – the LEDET MEC Monama said, “LEDET manages Makuya Nature Reserve in partnership with Makuya communities to benefit the entire affected Makuya communities.
“In executing its management responsibility, LEDET continuously engages Makuya communities through Makuya Traditional Council. LEDET is sustainably managing Makuya Nature Reserve to benefit Makuya communities.”
On the contrary and speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the Makuya community leaders from villages which contributed the land into Makuya Nature Reserve said there is evidence that LEDET is not managing Makuya Nature Reserve satisfactorily.
“In Makuya Nature Reserve the game fence is down; animals cross to the villages freely and dangerously, destroying property and farmers’ crops,” said the frustrated Community leader.
“There are no rangers who are in the bush protecting the environment, the so-called rangers are sitting daily at the gate of Makuya Nature Reserve.
“Since 2020 until now, LEDET never issued hunting quota to the Makuya community.
“Now there is a huge conservation crisis at the nearby villages where elephants are destroying peoples’ crops and the Makuya human-wildlife-conflict crisis stories are being published in the media with no government compensation being given to the affected farmers.
“Notably, this month, a farmer in Makuya Community Mr Joe Munzhelele suffered heavy crop damage caused by three elephants that were spotted in the area, leaving him uncompensated by the Limpopo Provincial Government and poorer as his crops, especially the mangoes were ready for the market.”
It remains to be seen when the ongoing conflict between the LEDET and Makuya Community will end.
Meanwhile, the Makuya communities which contributed the land into Makuya Nature Reserve said that they have asked the South Africa National Parks to replace LEDET and assist with wildlife conservation responsibility in their Nature Reserve.
About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who writes independently on environmental and developmental issues in Africa.