The restoration of land rights is one of the key factors in the transformation process of South Africa. The complexities of restoration of land rights are many times underestimated and the competing interests involved may lead to the process becoming outdrawn and emotional. In few areas is the potential for conflict of interest so apparent than when land claims are introduced on national parks and other conservation areas held dear by the nation. While national parks and other conservation reserves fulfil a crucial role in the local and regional economic development of South Africa, it is also of crucial importance that historical wrongs, which may have led to the establishment of such parks, are rectified. Numerous parks and conservation areas or parts thereof, were after all, established on land that was obtained through discriminatory means from black people.
When the Makuleke claim against the northern part of the Kruger National Park was introduced, the scene was set for a lengthy and emotional encounter. The claim was referred to as a "test" to reconcile competing interests. The joint management model, which has been agreed upon by the South African National Parks (SANP) and the Makuleke community to settle the claim, is an example of how closer co-operation can be structured to facilitate co-operation and economic empowerment of neighbouring communities while at the same time protecting the conservation assets of South Africa. This settlement may prove to be a guiding light for similar disputes in other areas of South and southern Africa.