Plus R60million in aid

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Mdlodleni Ntombela was only three when his family and the rest of his community were moved from their ancestral land in Hluhluwe in KwaZulu-Natal.

Until last week, the area had been a game reserve and generated income benefiting its white owners only.

At the weekend members of the two communities gathered at Hlabisa near Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal to celebrate the restitution of their land.

Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulama Xingwana, who officially handed over the land to the communities, said the 24000ha of land had good potential for eco-tourism development.

Xingwana also announced that financial assistance of R60million was being given to the communities.

All his life, Ntombela heard stories of how the communities of Mpukumyoni and Hlabisa had been told to vacate their land under the pretence that the then government wanted to rid the area of tsetse flies and buffalo ticks causing cattle disease.

The communities vacated the area with the understanding that they were doing so temporarily and would return after three years when the situation was back to normal.

To their surprise, three years went by and they were not called to come back to their land, instead the area was fenced off and converted into a game reserve.

Though many who experienced the removal have not lived to see their land returned to them, thousands of people cried tears of joy as the land of their forefathers was returned to them in an emotional ceremony at the weekend.

Ntombela was just a toddler when he and his family were moved, but his father often spoke of their removal.

"My father spoke so fondly of his ancestral land, he wanted to take us to the grave site of his parents, but we were barred from the area," Ntombela said.