Cybele Forest Lodge closure symptomatic of government’s failure

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The DA is deeply concerned over the future of the Manzimhlope community, after the Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs failed to provide for the continued operating of the Cybele Forest Lodge.

According to reports, the department paid over R17 million for the farm that comprises 120 hectares of forestry land and the lodge, but did not purchase any infrastructure or movable assets, leaving the beneficiaries with empty shell where the lodge used to be, and no means to run it or the plantation.

Land restitution is not only about putting rightful beneficiaries back on the land from which they were removed, but also to provide beneficiaries with the necessary finance, training, mentorships, and if needed, joint ventures with established players in the field to ensure that beneficiaries receive maximum benefit out of restitution.

Sadly, this is not the case, and once again an entire community’s hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow were dashed by a government unwilling or incapable of securing the necessary arrangements to ensure a prosperous future.

The DA understands that the lodge’s owners offered to assist with skills transfer and possible investors, but that the offer was turned down by officials who claimed that they had their own investors in mind – of which nothing had come.

Why it is that government did not take up the former owner’s offer when its negotiations with potential partners failed, and what prompted the decision to simply leave this impoverished community, who have been waiting over 55 years to return to their land, to fend for itself.

Government should be ashamed, and drastic and urgent steps need to be taken to save another successful land claim from collapse.