KwaZulu-Natal MEC for finance and economic development has warned traditional leaders who hold on to productive vacant land that they will be "held responsible" for creating poverty.
Zweli Mkhize was responding to a complaint by a Mpumuza resident, who said people had been battling to get land to plough - even though there were hectares of land lying fallow in their area because the chief had taken over its ownership.
"If what is said is true, then amakhosi will have to be held accountable for any unused land in their areas," Mkhize said.
"We cannot allow a situation where people are not allowed to use land that is vacant for one reason or another.
"If residents want to use the land, let them use it, it's as simple as that.
"We have been encouraging communities to use land in tribal areas because there is vast land that is not being used," he said.
Inkosi Nsikayezwe Zondi responded by saying that traditional leaders only took over the ownership of the land or crops "after two years" of vacancy.
He said this was standard procedure in all areas under the control of traditional leaders.
"It is incorrect to say that when an inkosi takes over the land or crops, they don't allow people to use them. We do.
"In the case of Mpumuza, I even called a community meeting where I addressed this issue of poverty alleviation and other developmental matters, including ploughing of crops, but no one was interested," said Zondi.