Durban - The community of Mbongolwane in Eshowe in northern KwaZulu-Natal is pressing ahead with their fight to force their traditional leader, Inkosi Sithembiso Ntuli, to scrap a new land lease agreement with sugar-cane farming giant company, Tongaat Hulett.
On Wednesday, a group of community members, young and old, marched to the offices of the Ntuli traditional council in Mbongolwane to present their 11 demands which they want to be addressed promptly.
The march followed a meeting on Tuesday where it was resolved that the Inkosi must be held accountable over the lease.
The bone of contention, according to a community member, Sifiso Ntuli, is a land lease that was signed in 2012.
WATCH: Members of the community of Oyaya in Eshowe under Inkosi Sithembiso Ntuli marching to deliver a petition calling for the scrapping of a new land lease agreement with Tongaat Hullet. Tongaat Hullet says everything was above board. @IOL pic.twitter.com/WDLim8ZHoe— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) August 3, 2022
The lease stipulated that about 300 local farmers should surrender some of their fields for Tongaat Hulett to undertake the sugar-cane farming project in the area. The first lease was signed in 2012 and expired on Monday (August 1, 2022) after its decade-long lifespan came to an end.
However, Ntuli claimed they have learnt that Tongaat Hulett had signed a new lease which will expire in 2030, and Inkosi Ntuli and some members were behind it. It was then resolved that they should march to demand answers.
“Now we have learnt that they have signed another lease, which will run until 2030. We have learnt that they signed it with some co-operative and our Inkosi. Attempts to get clarification from our Inkosi have failed as we are not entertained when we seek answers,” Ntuli said.
On Wednesday 11 demands were handed over to the offices of the traditional council of the Inkosi and his inner council.
The community members handed the demands under the banner of the Mbongolwane Agricultural Co-operative. Among their demands is that the Tongaat Hulett lease be set aside and that the Inkosi must meet with them within 14 days to discuss ways as to how to utilise their land profitably.
“The Inkosi must understand that the 10-year lease agreement is over, and we don’t want to enter into a new lease because the previous one used to benefit white people while we were getting a pittance for leasing our land.
“Inkosi must know that now we have both land and sugar cane, so we can’t continue with the deal where we were getting 10% (of the profit) for leasing our land,” read demand number 5 of the 11 demands.
Furthermore, in one of the demands, the community asked the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs under Sipho Hlomuka to intervene so that the new lease agreement with Tongaat Hulett is reviewed and set aside.
On Tuesday, Johann van Rooyen, Tongaat Hulett’s company secretary, told IOL that the lease was above board.
“Tongaat Hulett is aware of a matter brought forward by a group of individuals claiming to represent the Manyazini Co-op. The company is of the view that the contestation of leadership positions is an internal matter within the Co-op.
“Having said that, Tongaat Hulett has satisfied itself that the current lease entered into between the company and the Co-op was signed by legitimate individuals duly authorised by the entity involved,” he said in a written response.
Inkosi Ntuli insisted that the lease was above board as it was signed by all chairpersons of the farmers’ co-operatives.
“Someone is just abusing these people to march to achieve his selfish ends without telling the truth. Everything regarding this new lease was done accordingly and they also know that,” Inkosi Ntuli said on Wednesday.