Story Publication logo January 27, 2020

Conservation Capture

The Project 'Dominion: Land Grab in the Name of Conservation' explores the benefactors of the multimillion-dollar Mala-Mala deal.

Land reform, or sleight of hand? Who benefited from the multimillion-dollar MalaMala deal in greater...

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors
Kruger National Park. Image by Shutterstock. South Africa, undated.
Kruger National Park. Image by Shutterstock. South Africa, undated.

Details of the land claim settlement for MalaMala, one of South Africa’s most exclusive and expensive game reserves, are unlikely ever to be made public after a deal was reached outside of court proceedings in 2013. The settlement was the largest in the country’s history, and saw the government pay R1,1-billion – almost R300-million more than the asking price – to the private owners of the reserve.

A total of 960 claimants who had been removed from the land to make way for the reserve were listed as beneficiaries of the deal. The claimants opted not to resettle on the land, situated on the western border of the world-famous Kruger National Park, but chose instead to enter a partnership with MalaMala’s ecotourism business and to benefit from jobs, profit sharing and rentals.

MalaMala has since paid millions of rands into community accounts as a result of the deal. However, only an “elite” group of 250 people are benefiting from these payments, and among those who have still not received a cent are many who have died and about 500 elderly people who are surviving on government pensions.

Angry community members secured a High Court judgment against the N’wandlamarhi community property association (CPA), the vehicle set up to manage the funds. They allege the association has been “captured” by the former treasurer, Derick Mthabine, and his family in collusion with politically connected government officials.

Visit Oxpeckers for this article's full interactive experience.


yellow halftone illustration of two people standing back to back


Land Rights

Land Rights
yellow halftone illustration of an elephant


Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues