- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003


JOHANNESBURG — Nearly 2,000 impoverished South African tribesmen yesterday were awarded a diamond mine taken from their forefathers.

The Nama tribe won back land including the mine at Alexander Bay and the right to be compensated for diamonds mined since the first gems were found on the beach in 1925.

No one in the government, which owns the mine, or the Nama community has given a figure for the compensation, but during the five-year legal tussle an estimate of about $1.5 billion emerged. The cash will revolutionize life for hundreds of Nama families who for decades have eked out an existence.

The case saw fierce clashes between the Namas and the ruling African National Congress.

The ANC’s land-reform laws allow for land and compensation to be given to indigenous South Africans who lost out because of discriminatory apartheid laws. But the attitude seemed to change over Alexander Bay because the mine is state-owned, making the government liable for damages.

The ANC justified the rejection of the claim on the grounds that the Nama were “so uncivilized” they could not have property rights over the land.

A ruling by the Constitutional Court said indigenous people such as the Nama could have “customary” rights over land even if they were not written down.

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