More money for land claims, but only when needed – Treasury

Over the next three years, government will spend R8,7 billion on the settlement of land restitution claims, a figure which pales in comparison to the estimated R179 billion that will be needed to pay for new claims expected if the land claims process reopens later this year.

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Despite featuring prominently on government’s economic growth agenda, neither agriculture nor land reform and restitution have seen a marked increase in budgetary allocation from Treasury, according to finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2014 Budget.

Over the next three years, after administrative costs have been deducted from the restitution budget, the land reform department will only be spending between R2,6 billion and R2,8 billion on restitution grants per year, according to the Estimates of National Expenditure.

Treasury’s director-general Lungisa Fuzile said more money would only be made available when the department proved it could successfully increase its spending rate.

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Just over 600 land claims were settled in 2012/2013 and about 1 300 claims/year should be settled over the next three-year period, according to an annual report.

Referring to the rate at which land claims can be processed and paid for, Fuzile said that the “stated desire” was often higher “than what can practically be done”.

Dr Pieter Mulder, leader of the Freedom Front Plus, criticised government for creating expectations which cannot be fulfilled, saying: “These types of decisions lead to violent protests at a later stage.”

Tobias Doyer, head of Santam Agriculture, said it was obvious that not enough money was allocated for land reform. “But it’s not realistic to expect a budget to be allocated this year already for claims that will only arise once the process has been officially reopened.

“It’s still a long road ahead, but I think we’ll get a surprise when we see what the final bill for land reform will be.”