Plans to improve transparency in SA’s restitution process and prevent false land claims from being gazetted are taking shape, with a task team comprising farmers, claimants and officials expected to be launched in May.
But the Land Claims Commission has warned that farmers hoping this will result in a large number of claims being thrown out will be disappointed. “This is a mechanism to share information and solve problems,” said chief commissioner Tozi Gwanya. “claims are not valid we will not proceed with them. But let’s not predetermine the outcome.”
TAU SA and Agri SA both pushed for the creation of such a forum in the past, arguing if all facts were laid on the table from the outset many claims would never have seen the light of day. SA believes the vast majority of claims are invalid because they fail to comply with two key provisions of the Restitution Act: that removals were racially motivated, and dispossessed blacks weren’t fairly compensated. Both unions have also repeatedly pointed to major discrepancies between information on claim forms and actual areas gazetted. But Gwanya says mistakes were made because claimants used natural boundaries, such as rivers or hills, when describing territory they lost. “If later research shows a gazette includes farms where people never stayed, then they will be degazetted,” explained Gwanya.
By the same token, portions of land found to be inhabited that were not included in the original gazette notice will then be gazetted, he said. gri SA originally wanted seven committees, each representing all stakeholders, to deal with the different aspects of restitution. It appears their envisaged functions have now been collapsed into the union’s Land Forum, headed by its land affairs representative Theo de Jager. SA has drawn up a memorandum of understanding with government, requiring it to present a list of all unpublished and gazetted claims, each with an acceptance report and supporting evidence. The task team should include organised agriculture but exclude lawyers and NGOs, SA said. government has accepted the memorandum in principle. – Stephan Hofstätter