As part of government’s effort to accelerate land reform, Deputy President David Mabuza has handed over 764 000 hectares of land to the Covie community after a successful land settlement claim.
“Twenty-seven years into our democracy, today’s land handover should be seen as an important instrument to achieve social cohesion and the realisation of socio-economic opportunities, as provided for in the Bill of Rights,” Deputy President said on Friday.
Addressing the land handover ceremony in Bitou Local Municipality in the Western Cape, Mabuza, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform, said the Covie community has gained back more than 764 000 hectares of land, which will positively impact the 411 households’ ability to gain financial freedom.
The handover is part of the ongoing work of the Land Reform Inter-Ministerial Committee to accelerate land reform by mobilising State resources to increase the efficiency and sustainability of land redistribution and restitution.
“This area is rich with agricultural and eco-tourism opportunities. In our celebration, we appeal to the Covie community to use this land effectively for heritage purposes, commercial activities and agricultural activities.
“ … In all your endeavours, government across all spheres, and working with our social partners, stands ready to support you to use the land sustainably to benefit your families, your community and to preserve your heritage,” the Deputy President said.
He affirmed government’s commitment to empowering claimants and increasing support to emerging farmers, with the intention to address poverty, create jobs, and attract young people into farming, thus ensuring food security for the country.
“The restoration of land ownership to its rightful owners is not only an act of social justice, but it is also a necessary step to unlock the developmental potential of this area. The potential of the biodiverse economy presents endless possibilities for ecotourism development, which spatially connects Covie to the district economic nodes and tourism hubs, including the Garden Route,” Mabuza said.
He said targeted agricultural support initiatives will be geared towards enhancing the productive capacity of restituted land, in order to ensure that the beneficiaries of land have access to financial and infrastructural provision, as well as inputs that enable crop production.
“Part of the post-settlement support from government will have to focus on the provision of critical service delivery infrastructure such as roads, electricity, water and sanitation to support economic mobility and improved quality of life for the Covie community.
“Within the framework of government’s District Development Model, national government will work together with the provincial and local government spheres to nurture the fulfilment of this potential,” the Deputy President said.
The land claim was lodged by Irene Bernardo, who is a descendent of one of the original inhabitants of Covie.
“We salute her courageous act, which is a recognition of the prominent role played by women in society, and the affirmation of their equal right to land and its inheritance.
“Her trust in government to respond to the claim and return the land of her forefathers shall remain an act of heroism that will go into the history books. This act further demonstrates that indeed women have been and remain at the forefront of the attainment of freedom,” Mabuza said.
The Deputy President encouraged Bernardo to forge ahead with ensuring the land is developed and creates generational wealth.
“Ours is to ensure that women are given priority in the overall process of land reform as the Beneficiary Selection and Land Allocation Policy enjoins us, so that women do not continue to be discriminated against when it comes to land ownership,” he said.
The Deputy President said government places emphasis on social compacting and working together across political parties, between government and its people, as well as between government and the private sector, including communities.
“Therefore, in working together, it is possible to ensure that the restituted land is used effectively as a tool to change the lives of the newly restored owners and the country as a whole. This we can achieve if we ensure that the beneficiaries productively work the land, and equally build a heritage that contributes to the healing of past wounds, nation building, and the creation of a better future,” the Deputy President said.