Villagers’ land move gets farmer thumbs up

PREMIUM

At a time when the prospect of land expropriation without compensation is heightening tensions in the country, a small community in the Eastern Cape is seeking to find a mutually beneficial resolution.
The example being set by Tuba villagers and farmers in the Kwelerha area is one both parties hope will be followed by communities in other parts of the country.
The villagers lobbied government for years to buy them land in the area without success.
While frustrations boiled over in the past, resulting in Tuba residents invading and demonstrating on farmland, the villagers have now approached landowners to each pay R6,000 for a 30m x 30m plot of land.
Between 250 and 300 plots would be available on a 40ha area of farmland closest to the village.
Farmer Kevin Knock has welcomed the move, and discussions on the way forward have begun in earnest.
Nobesutu Pontshi, the secretary of the Tuba village community comprising 576 households, said residents had approached the department of rural development and land reform about their plans.
“The population here is too high, so we need more land for settlement. That’s why we approached him [Knock]. Our discussions so far have been successful,” Pontshi said.
“There is a desperate need for people to have land in the area.”
Villagers and farmers believe if the land transaction was successful, it would be a template for other rural communities to follow.
Anger over the unavailability of land first came to the fore in April 2015 when 400 residents invaded 10ha of farmland, saying it belonged to their forefathers.
They started mapping out their own plots, but these plans were labandoned after the farmers told the protesters they were willing to sell off portions of their land.
The villagers had hoped the department of rural development would step in to buy the land, but this did not materialise, which was why they offered to purchase.
Knock said there was a “desperate” cry for land in the area.
“There is a lot of frustration, because the community keeps growing. Unless this need is met, at some point the situation will get out of control, so we are delighted that the villagers have reached out to us,” Knock said.
Farmer Craig Lutge supported settlement on the land on the Tuba village side of the road, saying it would be beneficial to everyone. It was important that a measure of control was exercised, however, he said.
“It will be an issue if settlement crosses the road,” Lutge said.
ANC ward 50 councillor Thobile Mtya also supports the developments but said the land would have to be rezoned before transactions could occur.
“Kevin will need to write a letter to the municipality, requesting the land to be rezoned. A proposal will then be made to council, which will consider the matter. If that is passed, then there’s no problem,” Mtya said.
“As long as there is transparency and due process is followed, there is no problem. It’s good.”
Rural development and land reform spokesperson Phuti Mabelebele did not respond to queries at the time of writing...

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