Categories: South Africa

Draft amendment bill to re-open land claims

Land claimants from rural areas are expected to “come out in numbers” when the window for lodging land claims is re-opened, said Advocate Bheki Mbili, head of restitution at the KZN Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), at a recent media breakfast in Durban.

President Jacob Zuma announced in his State of the Nation address that government intended to re-open the claim lodgement process so that those who were negatively affected by forceful dispossession had a chance to lodge claims. Currently the lodgement deadline of 31 December 1998 was still in force. Mbili said the DRDLR was working on re-opening the lodgement date by preparing a draft amendment bill. Once the amendment was passed, the lodgement process could re-open.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints (about the 1998 cut-off date), particularly from people in rural areas who had no TV or electricity at the time we first advertised the opening of land claims,” Mbili said. The proposed amendment dealt only with the lodgement process from 19 June 1913 to a date approved by parliament. Thereafter it would initiate legislation to deal with dispossessions that took place prior to 1913, which affected communities like the Khoi and the San.

Mbili said it was not yet decided how much time people would be given to lodge claims. “It could be from two years on (indefinitely). We will probably know when it goes to parliament.” Mbili said the DRDLR  had made progress with current claims and 762 400ha had been restored to claimants, with a value of R5,2 billion, while a further R1,75 billion had been paid as financial compensation for 13 795 claims. There were 1 962 outstanding claims in rural and urban areas.

Of the unsettled claims, 1 121 were in the first phase of being researched. To accelerate the settling of these claims, the DRDLR was trying to include the Human Sciences Research Council and universities. “The idea is that we partner with them so they can speed up research and help expedite the settlement of outstanding claims,” Mbili said.

Bonginkosi Zulu, DRDLR acting chief director of the provincial shared services centre, said that 1 183 million hectares of previously white-owned agricultural land had been transferred to beneficiaries through the department’s Redistribution Programme, leaving 3,4 million hectares or 36,9% of land in white hands.

“In the last financial year, the Redistribution Programme acquired 21 000ha at a cost of just under R178 million and 55 projects were recapitalised at a cost of just under R89 million. Zululand is leading, with 26% of land redistributed, followed by Thukela and Umzinyathi,” Zulu said.

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