On the rolling hills of the grassy Barberton mountains and its deep valleys is the largest provincial game reserve in Mpumalanga. The 47,000ha Songimvelo Nature Reserve has the highest recorded plant diversity in the province (with more than 1,400 species identified), four of the big five and 73 other mammals. Once an attractive tourist destination and key economic contributor to the province, the reserve is now degraded, with dilapidated infrastructure putting a stop to visits by tourists or locals. It hosted former president Nelson Mandela in March 1992. Songimvelo is one of several protected areas in SA designated for land restitution by the government. The claim was gazetted in 2005 and the claimants were authenticated by the Mpumalanga Land Claims Commission in 2012. However, the land has not been transferred to its rightful owners and only one title deed has been issued for one of the 27 farms on the land — to Msauli village nestled in a valley below the Ngwenya mountains.


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