File photo: Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti on Tuesday handed over R3.6 million to three communities as well as title deeds to eight successful land claimant communities from the North West, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga

“When you receive title deeds you own the land, you will enter into a strategic partnership with government. Let us get use the land – we cannot have a nation that is poor but has the land, we must use the land productively,” the minister said while addressing the seventh People and Parks National Conference in Midrand.

The land claims which were all situated within protected areas consisted of a number of projects, which included the Bapolomiti, Jonathan and Klipvoor in the Northwest Province.

A total of 159 conservation claims were lodged across the nine provinces, and were at various stages of processing while community representatives for eight of the settled claims were awarded title deeds for the land and financial rewards as part of the compensation package.

Nkwinti reminded the claimant communities that because they were now the land owners they had a greater responsibility to ensure co-operation among members of the community structures.

He urged the traditional leaders to assist the community to ensure the land was fully utilised and productive and stressed the need for cooperation between community, government and all stakeholders.

The minister also spoke out against the infighting that plagued many communal property associations that were established after the claimed land is handed over to community groups.

Nkwinti reiterated that the Communal Property Associations (CPA’s) did not own the land and instead their role was to manage the land on behalf of the community.

He urged the CPA’s to be accountable to the community and to ensure the governance structures do not collapse.

An inter-ministerial memorandum of agreement was concluded and signed between the rural development and land reform department and the environmental affairs department in May 2007, and included a restitution process and an operational protocol to be followed when settling land claims in protected area.

The conference aimed to bring together communities and representative of key constituencies engaged in protected areas management and to reflect on progress.

African News Agency