A study by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) claims that the number of hectares transferred through the land restitution programme could have been doubled if some beneficiaries had not received financial compensation instead.
But the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) has dismissed the study as an attempt to discredit the DRDLR.
“Such studies create a misconception about the land reform process and must be re-addressed. Furthermore, the study does not address the issues at hand,” said Mtobeli Mxotwa, spokesperson for the minister of rural development and land reform.
The study shows that the government spent R12,1 billion to transfer just over 2,6 million hectares of land in the land restitution programme between 1994 and 2009. Meanwhile, almost R5,7 billion had been given to beneficiaries who received money instead of land.
Based on the average cost per hectare, the amount could have bought an additional 2,6 million hectares.The calculations by the SAIRR are based on the national averages and conceal provincial distortions. For example, land costs for the restitution programme were about R12 400/ ha in Gauteng and only slightly less than R200/ ha in Free State.
In Free State, the amount given in financial compensation could have bought 12 times the hectares received by land restitution beneficiaries. In KwaZulu-Natal, money received by beneficiaries could have bought less than half the hectares delivered through the restitution programme.
“Despite the provincial difference in land costs, the bottom line is that money provided for financial compensation could have bought a great deal more land for black land restitution beneficiaries had they not received money instead,” said Kerwin Lebone, a researcher at the SAIRR.
Mxotwa explained that the decision as to whether the claimants receive financial compensation or land rests with the claimant. “It would be unconstitutional to force it upon them.” He added that the department was making good progress with the land restitution process.
“By compensating claimants financially instead of giving them land would not influence the target set by government to increase land in black hands. “The one case deals with restitution and compensation for land that was taken away from them. The other deals with government’s wish to have 30% of the 87% that is in white hands, in black hands by 2014,” said Mxotwa.