Invading reserve is illegal, says MEC

Sicelo Dladla

Sicelo Dladla

KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and environmental affairs MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu has warned that he will not tolerate any "further land invasion" in the Ndumo Game Reserve.

He has also urged the police to arrest and prosecute members of KwaTembe tribal authority who stormed into the game reserve on Sunday.

The Ndumo Game Reserve was the centre of a land claim by the local community but the claim was "settled" in 2000.

But no visible development has taken place in the area, leading to some local residents trying to take over arable land in the protected area.

On Sunday a group of residents broke down the fence but the police were quickly on the scene.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday Mthimkhulu acknowledged the concerns of some individuals in the community.

"They can't use the land which they are living on now for agricultural purposes - and the arable land is in the reserve," he said.

"To be able to plough they [decided] to use some land over the Mozambican border."

Despite this legitimate need, he said, he would "not tolerate unruly behaviour".

"Since these problems started some weeks ago I personally went there to find out what they were complaining about and they understood that we are doing something for them," he said.

"The last meeting with them was on Sunday, when they tabled their grievances and I don't see any reason why they hacked down the fence."

Mthimkhulu said he was committed to finding a solution to the dispute.

Our solution will take into account both conservation and the interests and livelihood of our people, he said.