Ancestral land returned

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

The descendants of thousands of farmers forcefully removed from their land in Paulpietersburg in northern KwaZulu-Natal in the 1930s have been officially given their land back.

More than 5000 people of Hlanganani farm gathered for the historic event on Saturday when Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana handed over the title deeds. She said the pain could not be taken away, but getting their land back should bring some comfort.

Farm chairman Fana Mtshali said their forefathers suffered when they were removed from their rich land to unsustainable settlements at gunpoint.

"They lived in abject poverty after the forced removals.

"But this is a new era and we are celebrating."

The event also signaled a new era between the new and old owners as they embraced and shook hands, saying they were "willing to forgive and forget".

Mtshali said: "Running water and electricity are still things that are unheard of . We believe this is the beginning of great things to come."

Mtshali said it took them four years after launching a claim to get their land back last year.

"The previous owners offered to assist us run the [commercial forestry and livestock] farm until we gained enough experience to run it on our own," he said.