Deputy president David Mabuza made his way to the heart of the Tsitsikama National Park in the Western Cape this morning to hand over dispossessed land back to the Covie community, which was taken from them at the height of the Apartheid era.
Mabuza handed out the land in his capacity as the chairperson of the inter-ministerial committee on land reform at the Bitou Local Municipality at 10am this morning.
He was supported by the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza and the minister of public works and infrastructure, Patricia de Lille.
The handover is part of the ongoing work of the land reform inter-ministerial committee that hopes to accelerate land reform by mobilising state resources to increase the efficiency and sustainability of land redistribution and restitution.
The Covie residents, many of whom were descendants of foresters, had more than 800 hectares of land taken away from them in the 1970s under the Group Areas Act. Landless, the community was forced to spread all over the province, with some also moving to the Eastern Cape.
According to Beverley Jansen, regional land claims commissioner for the Western Cape, the long process for restitution was kicked into motion when the Covie community lodged its complaint in 1998.
Researchers were appointed and they had to verify each of the families. Some had left and had gone to Uitenhage, Cape Town and George, she says.
The department says this land handover is as the result of a restitution claim that was lodged by past and present residents in the Covie Village. The restitution claim will provide opportunities to a number of groups, including the claimant community with their historical connection to Covie and direct experience of dispossession, as well as the broader Bitou community who live in the surrounding areas.
This handover ceremony takes place during the commemoration of Freedom Month and it further demonstrates government’s commitment to human dignity, freedoms and the pursuit of an inclusive economy based on equitable spatial justice, says the department.