MOLOKO MOLOTO

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EIGHT years and counting. That’s how long seven communities in the Madimbo corridor in Limpopo have been waiting for title deeds to land the government promised in 2004.

The villagers have successfully claimed 27 000 hectares of land that was officially handed over by the former agriculture and land affairs minister, Thoko Didiza, in August 2004.

“An agreement was reached that the land in the Madimbo corridor is to be restored in full title to the Gumbu/Mutele communities and be registered in the Vhembe Communal Property Association,” the department said at the time.

However, the communities still don’t have full ownership of their land.

They were removed in the 1940s by the apartheid government and settled 10km away from Madimbo.

The land was used by the Defence Department as a base to train its special forces.

The military vacated the area when the land was handed over to the communities.

They have never occupied their land because the defence department has yet to clear it of live ammunition.

Ngingideni Tshiwandalani, the headman of Tshikuya village, has expressed his unhappiness about the delay.

“We suspect they don’t want to give us our land anymore,” he said.

He said residents want to plough the land, relocate their houses there and graze their herds.

Tshiwandalani was also baffled about why the military had returned to the land earlier this year without the community’s knowledge.

“Why is the military returning?” he asked.

The Department of Defence had not responded to the questions sent to it by the time of going to press.

An SMS was sent to ministry spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya, who referred questions to Siphiwe Dlamini, the head of corporate communications, who also referred questions elsewhere.

Mahwasane Mudzweda, chairman of the Vhembe Communal Property Association, said the Defence Department had reoccupied the land illegally.

He said the government had not consulted the residents about the return of the military, as it had promised previously.

In 2004, the Land Affairs department said: “The Department of Public Works will enter into a (lease agreement) with the Vhembe Communal Property Association on behalf of the Department of Defence for the usage of the western side of the claimed land.”

Mudzweda said no agreement was signed.

The military had just showed up one day.

“We were surprised to see the army vehicles and trucks returning to our land.

“nobody told us anything,” said Mudzweda.

Motlatsi Lebea, provincial spokesman for Rural Development and Land Reform, blamed the communities of the Madimbo corridor for the delay in the issuing of the title deed.

He said the communities had refused to allow the Defence Department to use the eastern part of the land for its military training.

“This then stalled the process of transferring the title deed to the community,” said Lebea.

He promised that the communities would have the title deed before the end of this year.