Land claimants urged to return to their land - Nkwinti

2014-07-01 16:37
Gugile Nkwinti (Picture: Beeld)

Gugile Nkwinti (Picture: Beeld)

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Cape Town - Government will encourage new land claimants to return to the places from where they were dispossessed instead of opting for pay-outs, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti said on Tuesday.

"The restitution of land rights is about just that... getting people back to the land," Nkwinti told a media briefing about the new five-year claim period that that opened on Monday.

"We have worried about this thing that people are going in again for money, because it tells you that poverty, unemployment... there is a problem, there is a lot of work we have to do."

Restitution claims that were lodged between 1994 and 1999 resulted in the return of 1.6 million hectares of land to South Africans who were dispossessed after 1913 when the Natives Land Act was passed.

Government spent R24.4bn on the process up to March this year. However, of that R7bn was paid out in compensation to successful claimants who preferred a cash payout - roughly half the amount the state actually paid spent on land acquisition.

Nkwinti said his department hoped to finalise a few thousand of the roughly 80 000 land claims that were lodged before 31 December 1998 and were still outstanding, within the next six months.

The second round of claims, made possible by the restitution of land rights amendment bill signed into law this week, should be settled much faster because claims will be lodged electronically, he said.

"This time we are going to register electronically ... and they won’t get lost unless we really make a mess of things. We think we will settle them much faster than before.

Projected figure

Nkwinti, who has been land reform minister since 2009, refused to put a projected figure on the cost of processing new claims and dismissed a suggestion by the DA that it could come to R279bn as indicative of a failed understanding of the process.

"It is a wrong interpretation," he said, adding that 30 June 2019 was the deadline for new claims but that land restitution was a long-running process to correct past wrong.

"It is the timeframe, it is not a time when all the claims could have been settled. We have to disabuse ourselves of them. So the budget thing should not be an issue, it is a political issue."

Nkwinti, who has held his post since 2009, frankly conceded that the department had fumbled at times, including excluding claimants in the Eastern Cape because it was "misinterpreting the law".

But he said ultimately the decision to re-open the claim process was motivated by the knowledge that too many people had not made it the first time.

"I started with the one that said: 'We have got our land back but there are many of our neighbours who were removed with us and they are not enjoying this with us.'"

He conceded that the department lacked the research capacity to verify claims and said it would in future lean on universities to help it.

Nkwinti said the department was in the process of finalising land claims in Claremont and Constantia - both of which have been a tussle for many years - and chief land claims commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo said it was possible that the new claim process could result in more former District Six residents finding succour.

Read more on:    gugile nkwinti  |  cape town  |  legislation  |  land

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