A R20,5-million land-claim settlement was signed by the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs, paper and packaging giant Mondi, and two recipient communities residing in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
”The conclusion of a sale agreement with Mondi … will set the tone for the resolution of claims on forestry land across the country,” acting chief land-claims commissioner Blessing Mphele told a media briefing.
Mphele described the deal as groundbreaking.
The sale and lease agreement of approximately 4 000ha of forestry land and some immovable properties, previously owned by Mondi, was officially concluded with the Amahlongwa and Amabomvini communities at a signing ceremony at Hartebeespoort.
Mphele said the land will be restored to a claimant property vehicle on behalf of each of the two communities.
A total of 140 households and 840 individuals will benefit from the settlement of the Amahlongwa community claim and 220 households and 1 320 individuals will benefit in the Amabomvini community.
Mondi South Africa’s forestry and transformation director, Viv McMenamin, said: ”We are very pleased that a settlement has been reached with the community on terms which achieve empowerment of new farmers and ensures a continued fibre supply for our business.”
She said the model and approach was achieved in a constructive way and could be used by others in the forestry industry involved in similar land discussions.
Patrick Ntuli, speaking on behalf of the Amahlongwa community, said community members were already working in the forests.
On behalf of the Amabomvini community, Nkosi Khomba Ngubani thanked Mondi and said he wanted to assure all those involved that the community would work with Mondi for the benefit of generations to come.
A settlement agreement that regulates the relationship between all parties was also signed.
In terms of the deal, the land will be leased back to Mondi for it to continue with the production of timber for its mills. The community will get income from the rental accruing from the lease agreement.
The deal also provides for the involvement of community members in the forestry business for the duration of the lease period.
Mondi has set aside R1,2-million for training, coaching and mentoring, and start-up costs for the community companies as well as vehicles and equipment.
The Forestry Education and Training Authority has also allocated R2-million towards the training of its trustees, company directors and employees.
There are about 739 forestry claims across the country. — Sapa