President Cyril Ramaphosa says the handover of title deeds for 3 990 hectares of land is "historic" and restores the dignity of local communities in the West Coast.
The President said this when he officiated the handover of the title deeds for the settled portions of land claims to more than 50 households of Ebenhaeser, Beeswater in the Western Cape on Saturday.
"The handing over of these title deeds is a historic occasion, because it includes the first ever settled land claim in the Western Cape to descendants of the Griqua people.
"It is in the ownership of land that we find our independence as a people. It is land that we rely on to live, to work and to eat. It is land that holds firmly the roots of our ancestors. Land is the one thing that endures the passage of time," he said.
The President said the number of claims settled for the West Coast Municipality - a total of 392 out of 422 by February this year - is a result of cooperation between the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner.
The handover of the title deeds marks an end to a 16 year journey after the Ebenhaeser community first submitted their land claim.
This was done through the 2005 Ebenhaeser Settlement Framework Agreement, which stipulated that there should be a Community Development and Acquisition plan (CDLAP) to guide the resolution of the Ebenheaser land claim.
The Community Development and Acquisition plan was then developed in conjunction with an extended Land Claims Committee and adopted by a commission managed Community Meeting on 31 October 2013.
This plan then formed the basis of the Ebenheaser Community's position in the negotiations towards the settlement of the claim.
After this, 13 June 2015 became a historic day for Ebenhaeser and the Community Property Association as the Minister of Rural Development, Gugile Nkwinti, signed a Settlement Agreement with the Ebenhaeser Community Property Association.
Addressing members of the community and beneficiaries on Saturday, the President said it remained government's priority to provide the necessary support to communities who have had their land returned to them in order for it to be utilised productively and effectively, and to support the broader goals of agricultural growth and economic transformation.
"I am therefore particularly pleased that the Ebenhaeser community wants to use the land for productive purposes.
"There are already various agricultural activities, including livestock farming, taking place on some of the farms, and three harvests have been completed so far.
"I am pleased to note that the emerging farmers in the community are being supported through the Ebenhaeser Farmer Production Support Unit and have established a co-operative model to build capacity in livestock, vineyards, lucerne and hay production as well as fresh produce," he said.
The President said the restituted farms have also acquired a quota for the delivery of wine grapes to local sellers and the community trust is engaging with Pioneer Foods around the production of raisins, currants and sultanas.
He said a number of infrastructure projects have also been implemented on the restituted land.
"The farms have combined water rights for 132 ha from the Olifantsrivier Irrigation Scheme, which will greatly help the community in its future agricultural activities.
"In the future the community is looking at exploring opportunities in the rapidly growing aquaculture sector, which has significant potential benefits in terms of job creation.
"The other communities are also exploring opportunities in livestock and game farming, as well as possible opportunities in salt and gypsum mining. It is critical that we highlight the post-settlement futures of these claims. Land reform isn't just an imperative for social justice. It is also part of our greater drive to grow our economy and create jobs for our people," the President said.