More land claims time

2014-07-01 00:00

LAND claimants who missed out on the restitution process may lodge a claim from today.

This follows the enactment of the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act by President Jacob Zuma.

The amendment reopens the process, which closed in 1998, for a further five years. The new new cut-off date is now June 30, 2019.

It paves the way for about 379 000 claims to be lodged, according to government estimates.

People dispossessed of their land through racially discriminatory laws or practices between 1913 and before 1994 may lodge a claim.

An estimated 3,5 million people were estimated to have been affected over this period.

The government is already sitting with a backlog of existing claims, with 30 000 of a total of more than 77 000 not yet completely settled.

This backlog has raised concerns that the amendment will cause further delays for those with existing claims.

About 200 to 250 claims were settled a year, according to Tara Weinberg, a researcher at the Centre for Law and Society at the University of Cape Town who has pointed out before that if claims continue to be settled at the current rate, they would take 121 years to settle.

“By reopening the process, it will harm existing claimants, especially those in poor rural areas who have been waiting for more than a decade already.”

A big concern among existing claimants whose cases were settled but not finalised, was that there could be a counter-claim.

Her colleague, Dr Aninka Claassens, said that there could be a ‘rush of claims by the politically connected, by the traditional chiefs, which would trump the existing group claims by democratic institutions such as communal property associations”.

Professor Ben Cousins, chairperson of the National Research Foundation at the University of Western Cape, said there were other ways of redress through projects such as the Land Redistribution Programme.

“To reopen the process demands a huge budget and I am not sure that government can put their money where their mouth is. Then there is also a problem of capacity — there are already so many unresolved claims.

“Also, will these be ringfenced or can new claims be lodged against old claims?”

Zuma also signed the Property Valuation Act, which regulates the valuation of property identified for land reform as well as property identified for acquisition or disposal by a department.

The ANC described the two enactments as a “ bold and decisive step in the quest to accelerate the pace of land reform in South Africa”.

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