Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini on Sunday received a gift of 120 000 hectares of land that had been taken from his forefathers more than 80 years ago.

The handing back of the land to the king's communities marked the climax of the week-long celebrations of the king's 60th birthday.

Agriculture and environmental affairs MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu handed the king three title deeds for the land at his KwaKhangelamankengane Palace, near Phongola.

There were huge celebrations when Mthimkhulu announced the handover of land taken from the Nkunzana, Gwebu and Okhonjeni communities.

The land - which is in the form of game farms, sugar cane farms and other agricultural projects - will be owned by the communities which will run them as businesses.

The award totalled more than R229-million.

The king said he appreciated the fact that the land was handed over to him and the people as part of his birthday celebrations.

"It is now back to basics for these people who were deprived of their land a long time ago.

"My message to them is that they should use this land by producing food that they should sell to markets and to those who do not have land.

"With the escalating food and oil prices, it is important that people should be able to produce their own food."

Sunday's event marked the completion of the first phase of the king's birthday celebrations, which started last Thursday with prayers at his KwaDlamahlahla Palace, kwaNongoma, and which were followed by a traditional ceremony outside KwaKhethomthandayo Palace, also kwaNongoma.

At the weekend, a Western-style celebration was held at Phongola Stadium, where police brass bands were back to back with Zulu warriors in traditional attire.

The ceremony was attended by national and international guests who praised the king for his role in bringing about peace.