Land claimants group want Zuma to intervene in delay saga

2014-09-30 00:00

AMONG the many people vying for President Jacob Zuma’s attention today will be a group representing land claimants who want him to sort out the KZN land claims office.

The group represents labour tenants from more than 387 farms across the province.

They say the local land claims office has allegedly refused to accept their claims because they were lodged by lawyers. They allege that while former farm tenants who were kicked off farms in other provinces have been getting their money, the process in KZN is going nowhere.

Yesterday more than 700 claimants from areas including Weenen, Port Shepstone, KZN Midlands and northern KZN, travelled by train, buses, cars and taxis as they were hoping to hold a protest march in the city.

However, they were told permission had to be sought.

They gathered at Dales Park in Mayor’s Walk and plotted a way forward.

One of their plans is to make the president aware of their plight.

Thanda Shange, a convenor of the group, said it was their democratic right to use lawyers who understood the intricacies of the law. “We have heard officials from the local land claims office are going around telling communities who use lawyers to put in claims, that they [lawyers] are criminals and fraudsters and this was why claims would not be accepted,” he said.

Shange said communities who lodged claims since 1998 and 2006, are becoming suspicious at the delays.

He alleged the department kept moving the goalposts and laid down terms and conditions that made it difficult to prove their claims.

“They ask for marriage certificates, yet many of our ancestors had customary marriages. They want us to show family gravestones, yet in most instances the land has been developed. There are sugar plantations, golf courses, shopping malls and even dams on these former farms. We ask why can’t KZN do what other provinces have done and work through committees who know the families that lived in the areas?” Shange said.

Tulani Ngcobo and Obed Dlamini said because of the delays, allegations are surfacing that it is because officials want bribes.

Land claims spokesperson Nokuthokoza Ndlela said lodgement of claims was a free service offered to victims of dispossessions, or victims of the 1913 Natives Land Act.

Just because a claim was lodged it did not necessarily mean it was legitimate.

“The commissioner will first do a thorough investigation and research the claim to satisfy himself that the claim is valid. Hence we do not see the role of legal representation at this stage,” Ndlela said.

She added that if officials asked for bribes and there was evidence to support this, victims should report the matter to the department and the police.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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