Villagers reclaim ownership of land

Sowetan Reporter

Sowetan Reporter

Life will never be the same again for members of two impoverished Mpumalanga communities who were forcibly removed from their agricultural-rich ancestral lands more than 50 years ago.

In what has been described as a land restitution model to be emulated, the Siboshwa community in Komatidraai and the Hhoyi people, who live near Komatipoort, will receive a combined yearly rental income of R12million after successfully lodging land claims with the Land Claims Commission.

This landmark development after TSB Sugar, a leading South African-based international sugarcane producer, which owned the two farms until 31 March this year, was paid R285million in a land settlement. This saw the ownership of the two farms restored to their original occupants.

Instead of withdrawing its sugar cane farming activities completely, TSB will now lease the two farms from the communities for the next 22 years through a management company, Shumbombo Agricultural Services.

The company will pay the trusts representing the communities a total of R12million as lease rental. This amount excludes the dividends that will be paid from the proceeds of sugar cane production every year.

TSB managing director Hennie Snyman, who this week described the deal as a "win-win", said the company would during the lease period use its expertise and extensive experience in sugar cane farming to develop the claimants.

This would in turn enable them to stand on their own once the lease agreement came to an end.

"We believe in the process and we believe the people will be successful," said Snyman.

Petros Silinda, chairman of Siboshwa Community Trust, said the reason the 5000-strong community had agreed to the deal was to allow for skills transfer to take place.

He said though there had been no firm agreement on how the income derived from the lease agreement would be distributed, many of the beneficiaries preferred investing most of the money in sustainable community projects.