South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa urged the Nofingxana community, near Alice in the Eastern Cape, to exploit economic opportunities presented by the Double Drift wildlife economy, which received a heard of ten zebras and 20 hartebeest [an African antelope] on Wednesday.

“We follow on the programme where land restitution has happened, and we also go into new areas where communities own land, to ensure that the land is utilised in those rural areas for conservation that is sustainable. We also look at programmes of biodiversity economy, the bioprospecting, as well as animal life – looking at how we can benefit society,” Molewa said speaking to African News Agency (ANA) at a ceremony marking the launch of the community project.

“In the space of animal programmes, one can do hunting, hides and skins, jewellery and all the other things that can be beneficial to the community. From their own land, the communities can do hunting, sell game meat, from the skins [hides] they can do jewellery but there is a lot of training that needs to happen here. This is the beginning of the rollout of those programmes.”

Molewa said the land restitution programme being punted by the South African government needs to be supported by programmes which will ensure sustainable and beneficial land use to the claimants.

“It should not be that after land is given to people, then they do not have use for it. We are coming from different angles, including agriculture. In some spaces, agriculture will be necessary because the people prefer to do either some cropping or some form of livestock programmes. The communities are hungry for land, and it is for that reason we said at conference [the 54th African National Congress national conference held at Nasrec, Johannesburg in 2017] the many pieces of land in the hands of the few should actually move now to benefit the majority who have no land,” said Molewa.

The launch of the community project on Wednesday coincided with the handing over of title deeds to the same community. The land was returned as part of South Africa’s land redistribution programme.

Regional land claims commissioner, Lebjane Maphuta, said trends indicate that land claimants differ in their preferred resolutions — some preferring the land back while others opt for financial settlements.

“What we find is that there are claimants who really want financial compensation, just as there is claimants who want to be given land. The law says we must give people what they want. If they want financial compensation, we give them the financial compensation. If they want land, we give them the land,” said Maphuta.

He, however, said government agencies have a huge responsibility to educate claimants on the pros and cons of choosing either the land, or the financial settlements.