R61m citrus estate returned to its rightful owners

The Bjatladi Community on Monday received the title deeds and full land ownership of the Limpopo province Zebediela Citrus Estate, the biggest citrus estate in the southern hemisphere with an estimated value of R61,4-million, state news agency Buanews said on Monday.

The move will see 331 households returned to their ancestral land.

The Zebediela Land Claim was lodged in response to the South African government’s Land Restitution programme after the loss of land rights in 1914,

ministerial spokesperson Nana Zenani said.

“They were instructed by the then Commissioner of Bantu Affairs and Administration that they no longer owned the land but had to work to secure their stay on the farm or vacate it,” she added.

“Since then, the plight of the Bjatladi Community has been one of Labour Tenancy with some black residents forced to work up to three months without pay which was in line with the Native Land Act of 1913,” she said.

The restitution of the land to its rightful owners would not only see the return of the land to the community but a formation of partnerships with the existing farmers on the estate.

“Among some of the agreements reached between the communities and the farmers has been a 15-year lease agreement with an annual rental payment of one

million rand to the Bjatladi Communal Property Association (CPA),” Zenani said.

The management of the farm would be undertaken by Henly Farm Properties to ensure that the estate was run to its fullest potential while creating job opportunities and receiving returns on investment.

Further improvements on the property will include the reconstruction of all boreholes, the servicing and replacement of transformers, the replacement of stolen electricity lines and cables, the erection of the surrounding fence as well as repairs to the buildings and the restoration of the road to the estate.

The refurbishing will cost an estimated R16,5-million.

The property has functioned as a commercial citrus estate for the past 85 years and was previously owned by the then Lebowa government. - I-Net Bridge

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