Mayhem at park launch

2018-04-13 16:15
Disgruntled community members at the official launch and handover of the Mayibuye Game Reserve Wildlife Economy project outside Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.

Disgruntled community members at the official launch and handover of the Mayibuye Game Reserve Wildlife Economy project outside Pietermaritzburg on Thursday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Controversy erupted on Thursday at the launch of the Mayibuye Game Reserve Wildlife Economy Project near Camperdown.

Angry members of the community opposing the project demanded to be addressed by Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson, using foul language and disrupting the launch.

Their unexpected arrival shattered the joyous celebrations and turned into a shouting match.

The R10 million project was funded and implemented through the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The local community, the Ximba people, were awarded a land restitution claim in terms of a settlement agreement in April 2007.

On Thursday at the launch, the chairperson of the Mayibuye Community Trust, Welcome Maphanga, said the launch was a “victorious day” for the community as a total of 76 job opportunities were created and the project was set to create more jobs.

He said, they, the rightful owners of the land were removed from it in 1963 during the apartheid days and in 1996 they formed a committee to try and get it back.

“In 2013 we were registered at the master of the high court as trustees. We followed the correct procedures and in 2017 we got the land back.

“We want to change Camperdown, we want people to travel from all over the world to visit us here,” he said.

Mayhem erupted halfway through the launch when a group of about 20 men, some carrying sticks and pangas, entered the premises and started hurling insults at deputy minister Thomson and the gathered community members.

Police monitored the situation.

Thulisile Maphanga (front) celebrates with other jubilant community members at the official launch and handover of the Mayibuye Game Reserve Wildlife Economy project outside Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.

The men interrupted the programme by shouting how they were “betrayed by Thomson” and some went up to the stage demanding that the deputy minister address them.

The chaos went on for half an hour as the men tried to get Thomson’s attention.

Speaking on behalf of the disgruntled community members, Msa Ngubane said they were also members of the Mayibuye Community Trust, yet they knew nothing about the project.

“We are not against the project, we are against this launch because we are also claimants who are meant to benefit from the land claim, yet the committee of the Trust does not tell us, the beneficiaries, anything,” he said.

Ngubane said they had a meeting with Thomson last week and attempted to settle the dispute within the Trust.

He claimed Thomson had agreed to halt the project until everything was resolved.

“We just want this whole thing to be paused while we try to resolve the matter and re-vote for new committee members because the current leadership is not fair and transparent as they should be.

“The government is pumping money into the project and they are the only ones who benefit,” he said.

Ngubane admitted that they were the community members who were taken to court back in 2015, after they had disrupted the construction of the game reserve for the same reason.

“They took us to court and when we proved that we are also beneficiaries of the land the case was left hanging.

“To this day that case is still open as there was no judgment on the matter,” he said.

Disgruntled community members at the official launch and handover of the Mayibuye Game Reserve Wildlife Economy project outside Pietermaritzburg.

Addressing the crowd after order had been restored, deputy minister Thomson said Thursday’s event was supposed to be a “beautiful celebration and not a squabble between neighbours”.

She said the government was not biased and had no hidden motives by sponsoring this project.

“What I know for sure is that we will resolve this matter, I promise. I will be meeting with all those involved after this event and we will try to resolve the matter starting from its core,” she said.

Some community members said they were happy about the project.

Thembekile Mphanga, who was employed by Mayibuye as a clerk last year, said she was grateful that the project was progressing.

“I had spent almost 10 years at home without a job. Mayibuye Game Reserve has changed many lives and promises to change many more.

“I can now provide for my family because of this project,” she said.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  mayibuye game reserve

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