As the land restitution process continues to fall behind target, the Land Claims Commission announced that it no longer favoured settling claims with financial compensation. Chief land claims commissioner Tozi Gwanya recently announced that his officials could not rule out land invasions and the only way to prevent a Zim-like situation was to stop encouraging monetary compensation for rural land claims.
But opting for financial compensation rather than restitution had been one of the options available to claimants since the commission’s inception in 1995. According to Agri SA’s land affairs committee chairperson Dr Theo de Jager, “From a legal aspect the commissioner’s argument can’t hold any ground.
The law states restitution can take three forms: restoration of the land to dispossessed claimants, provision of alternative land, and payment of compensation. choice rests with the claimants.” ut Gwanya is holding fast that actual land redistribution is significant at rural level.
The Sunday Times (9 September) quoted as saying claimants who received financial compensation in St Lucia and Pietermaritzburg returned to the commission, demanding their land back. He said the claimants wanted money because they were hungry but now the money was gone, they wanted land for their livelihood. “Clearly we don’t want illegal land occupation, especially from people who were given financial compensation,” he said. KwaZulu-Natal land claims commissioner Mayo Sosibo said the commission was not addressing past imbalances by giving claimants money. T he announcement has sparked outrage among many landowners who have warned that it could negatively affect the restitution process.
De Jager said the restitution process was set to last for decades more. “We have recently heard that the commission does not intend to dismiss any claims, settled or not. That effectively means even though a claim has been settled, the claimants can still take the matter up in a court of law, perpetuating the ownership insecurity among farmers.
This means that though claims were submitted within the set deadline, anyone who did submit a claim was free to pursue it when and if they felt like it. could drag on forever,” he said. According to him there was another concern regarding restitution beneficiaries and rural land. “We are concerned as it is mostly communities that have submitted claims for rural land and there has not been a single example of such claimants successfully managing that restitution land for agricultural purposes.
It further complicates mentorship initiatives, as it’s much easier to engage in a skills-transfer programme on a one-on-one basis. We have seen so many instances where land restitution to a community instead of an individual has led to division and in-fighting.” – Cornelia du Plooy