EMOTIONS ran high at a community meeting in Fairview, Umzumbe last week as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Land Owners Association of Umzumbe, councillors and community members met to discuss the legitimate ownership and plans for a piece of land in the area.During the meeting held at the Fairview community hall last Friday, the relevant stakeholders seemed to be at loggerheads over who owns the land and how it should be used.The land in question is the re-maining part of the farm Fairview No. 15590, which covers about 28 hectares after the founding owners, the Free Methodist Church, sold parts of it. According to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the land was handed over to them after the Department of Land Affairs bought it from a developer whose application to turn the area into a residential plot was refused in 2011. Conservation manager at Ezemvelo, Mthunzi Mthethwa, said the application was received from the developer in 2007 and was denied in 2011 upon discovering that the land had never been touched. “By law, land that is found to be pure, as that of Farm Fairview No. 15590, should then be conserved and not developed for residential housing,” said Mthethwa. He said Ezemvelo has found a sizeable number of critically endangered grassland species which would benefit conservation. Hibberdene ward committee member Hilton O’dwyer said community members and all other stakeholders should respect the only existing title deed over the land, of which Ezemvelo is in possession of. However, chairperson of the Land Owners Association of Umzumbe, Sipho Cele, claims the department of Land Affairs and Ezemvelo unlawfully usurped the land in question from the people. “We are not happy at all about this issue. As the Land Owners Association we have a reference number from when we placed a claim on the land back in 1999 and we never received any response from the Department of Land Affairs, only to be told that the land was sold in 2011; how come?” asked Cele. He wants the process be started over and their application to be taken into account before any plans are made regarding the land. He said community members who have already built on the land have done so illegally because the association was never made aware of their plans to occupy the space, which is a prerequisite for any land takeovers in the area. Chairperson of the area CPF and traditional council Sipho Khumalo, echoed these sentiments, saying that whatever happens with the land, the community at large should be consulted adequately. The area ward councillor Noah Cele said the onus is on Ezemvelo to explain properly its intentions to the community. He said the conservation project would benefit the community in terms of work opportunities. “The quicker this process happens, the better it will be for the community as it will provide jobs,” said Noah Cele. He said a follow-up meeting will be held at a later stage to include the area chief, since the royal house has also laid a claim over the land.