A total of 194 households in Ubizo, near Richards Bay, have benefitted to the tune of R6-million following an agreement signed two years ago between Tongaat Hulett and the Ubizo Communal Property Association (CPA) aimed at social upliftment and improving livelihoods.
The Ubizo CPA acquired more than 2 500ha of land as a result of a land claim lodged in 1995, of which about 1 700 is under sugar cane. In 2018, the CPA signed a lease agreement with Tongaat to accelerate sugarcane development, build skills and provide contracting opportunities for qualifying service providers.
The partnership is part of a joint effort between the Regional Land Claims Commission, community leadership and Tongaat Hulett to help drive land reform in the province. The Ubizo CPA has 194 households who are part of the register of beneficiaries.
Tongaat Hulett Corporate Affairs Executive Nkonzo Mhlongo said land reform is one of the major drivers in advancing the empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa.
“Well managed land reform projects create value for the poor, balances relationships between private sector organisations such as Tongaat Hulett and communities, and promote sustainable rural development. They also provide enterprising individuals within the community with an opportunity to plug themselves into various business opportunities that emanate from the land reform process,” Mhlongo.
Ubizo CPA chairperson Thomas Cebekhulu said the Ubizo CPA recognized the role of restitution in promoting social upliftment and improving livelihoods, particularly in rural communities.
“All our efforts as the CPA executive committee, as instructed by the beneficiaries, have been to ensure that we promote good governance, and continuous beneficiary engagements. During our term of office, which began in 2015, there have been major achievements that have resulted from our healthy working relationships with Tongaat Hulett.
“The most exciting has been realised with the distribution of R6 million in dividends to the 194 households, with each household receiving R30 927,84. This is a clear indication that the CPA Committee has delivered on its mandate of ensuring beneficiation,” said Cebekhulu.
Other achievements included the construction of the CPA Office named after community ancestor Inkosi Mzimba. The partnership with Tongaat Hulett would also soon result in the establishment of a satellite area for a mobile clinic, with the building supported in terms of the Socio-economic Development Programme. The clinic was likely to be ready for service delivery next year.
Cebekhulu said there had been hard times when the beneficiaries had questioned the business model the CPA had adopted with Tongaat Hulett.
“This distribution process is a clear statement to the beneficiaries and other land restitution communities that the restitution process has the ability to yield economic benefits for the community,” he said.
Land Claims Commission Regional head, Advocate Bheki Mbili, said that the Commission was very pleased with the progressive development within the Ubizo community.
“What excites us is not only the payment of dividends to the beneficiaries of this claim, but we are also encouraged by the exemplary manner in which this community has looked after the land that was restored to them.
“Had they not done so, the payment of dividends would have remained an elusive dream for members of this community. We are also encouraged by the level of stability that exists within the community which augurs well for the economic spinoffs that come with future land restoration to be realised,” he said.
Mbili said the Ubizo CPA and Inkosi Cebekhulu were a good example that it was possible to effectively manage the relationship between ubukhosi and CPAs.
“We wish to congratulate the leadership of Ubizo community for stepping up to the proverbial plate in order to ensure that members of this community realise the benefits of restitution whilst at the same time protecting the asset that will ensure continued benefits to generations to come,” said Mbili.
A land claim for the Ubizo community with 194 households was lodged by Inkosi Nsikayezwe Russel Cebekhulu on behalf of the community with the Regional Land Claims Commission in 1995. The first phase of the Ubizo claim was approved by the South African government in 2015. This approval resulted in the acquisition of land for the Ubizo community totaling 2 547 hectares.
The total area under sugarcane is 1 749 hectares. The farm has a maximum production capacity of 100 000 tons. A total of 318 community members are employed in various roles in the farm. The second phase of the Ubizo claim was finalized in 2019/20. The second phase resulted in additional hectares being transferred
In 2018, the CPA signed a lease agreement with Tongaat Hulett. The agreement contained several objectives including accelerating sugarcane development in the lease area; supporting and implementing education, capacity building and training programme for the community; providing contracting opportunities for qualifying service providers; and fostering socio-economic development.
Tongaat, in partnership with the CPA, has ensured that the various sugarcane development activities were being implemented in the different sections of the farm. The parties have ensured that appropriate individuals were identified to be capacitated over a period of time into the role of a farm manager. The training and capacity building process is still ongoing.
In addition, a total of seven youngsters from the Ubizo community have been supported to attend the Junior Certificate Course in Sugarcane Agriculture. This is a 3-week course which seeks to introduce students to the sugarcane agriculture business. The key focus areas of the course include botany, environmental management, farm management, farm planning, mechanization, irrigation, soil and nutrition and pest and diseases.
The CPA is currently working with the Department of Health and all relevant stakeholders to establish a satellite area for the mobile clinic. The intention is to build a structure that would operate as a waiting area for the community members. This structure will promote human dignity and provide privacy for the community.