Delight as land is returned to people

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The Landless Peoples Movement has welcomed the decision to allow the people of Bhekabantu and Mbangweni to farm in the Ndumo Game Reserve in northern Zululand.

KwaZulu-Natal agriculture and environmental affairs MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said controlled agriculture would be allowed in the reserve.

"A rezoning process commences with immediate effect and 20 hectares will be set aside for controlled agricultural activity," Mthimkhulu said.

"The plight of these communities is coming to an end after many years in which they were treated as part of the flora and fauna of the reserve.

"Our announcement returns dignity to the people of Bhekabantu and Mbangweni and assures peace and security."

The movement's (LPM) national coordinator, Mangaliso Kubheka, said the move was the right step to finding a lasting solution for the Bhekabantu and Mbangweni people.

"The announcement is a step towards restoring land to its rightful owners," he said.

Three weeks ago the LPM threatened to invade the land if the animals were not removed from the reserve.

In June residents cut 11 kilometres of fence on the reserve's eastern and southern boundary and demanded land for farming.

Traditional leader Mabhudi Tembe applauded the department, saying the land given back to his people will make a big difference in their lives.

In November 2000 1262 hectares on the east bank of the Phongolo River was transferred back to the eMbangweni community, but residents could not occupy the land in the protected area in terms of the Nature Conservation Management Act of 1997.