23 April 2012
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has urged beneficiaries of land redistribution to use their new assets productively to help them participate in the mainstream of South Africa’s economy.
“Our message to land claimants is that … once we give you the piece of land, you must use it productively to fight poverty and unemployment,” Nkwinti said at a ceremony marking the restoration of 12 503 hectares of land to the Lomshiyo Community outside Barberton in Mpumalanga province on Saturday.
“This government is moving faster in redistributing land to its rightful owners through negotiated settlements with the private sector because the majority of our people want their ancestral land [for farming],” Nkwinti said.
“We don’t want this timber plantation farmland to become a white elephant.”
‘Like coming back to life from the dead’
An estimated 2 593 people, comprising 485 households, of which 203 are headed by women, will benefit from the handover of the land.
The chairperson of the Lomshiyo community, Mandla Mavuso, has big plans for its use and development.
“Getting our ancestral land back feels like coming back to life from the dead,” Mavuso told BuaNews. “We are willing to work with those who have been using this piece of land. We want to keep this farmland productive.
“We will also look at the possibility of turning this area into a tourist destination,” he added.
The restored land was part of Shannon Properties – who have been using it as a timber plantation – as well as other surrounding farms. There are 58 farms in total in the area, and 90 percent of them are privately owned.
‘Agricultural sustainability the goal’
Nkwinti told BuaNews that the sustainability of South Africa’s agricultural sector was a key goal of the state’s land reform programme.
Nkwinti added that he was pleased with progress made in the redistribution of land in Mpumalanga province, while the 16 outstanding land claims in the Free State would be finalised in June this year. The Eastern Cape still had 600 outstanding cases, he said.
The government has set itself the goal of redistributing 30 percent of South Africa’s land to historically disadvantaged communities by 2014.
“By speeding up the process of redistributing land to its rightful owners, we think that we are moving towards achieving that mission,” Nkwinti said.