Land reform to stay

2014-02-26 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Emotions last night ran high as a contentious bill to amend the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 was accepted by the National Assembly.

A warning about a “sea of hungry people” and accusations that the amendment was an election stunt were heard during the debate.

The office of the chief whip said the legislation makes provision for the re-opening of land claims for period of five years.

“This act will also give an opportunity to claim land for those who were dispossessed of land before the year 1913, such as the Khoi San communities, including those dispossessed through betterment planning schemes and not allowed to lodge their claims by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights” said the office of the chief whip in a statement.

All the parties except for the Freedom Front Plus were in favour of the the bill. The DA had initially supported the bill conditionally, but when these conditions were not accepted, the party voted against the bill.

A total of 216 MPs voted for the bill and 59 against it.

The ANC was adamant that land reform is here to stay. “Land reform will continue until not a single claim remains and the injustice has been repaired,” said ANC MP Mandla Mandela. He said land could not be taken from people for 300 years and then returned within a year, as the DA suggested. “That is ridiculous.” Mandela said the Finance minister s will “in less than 24 hours” make available more money for land reform.

DA MP Kevin Mileham described the bill as an election stunt.

In his speech during the debate, Mileham, the DA’s shadow deputy minister of rural development and land reform, said the DA would have supported the bill if — this time round — the land claims process was announced through an intensive, six-month media and communication campaign before the window was re-opened. The DA proposed that the cut-off for new claims be limited to June 30, 2015.

Mileham had also proposed that new claims should be submitted within a limited time and a private contractor must conduct the verification process to speed up the process.

FF Plus leader Dr Pieter Mulder predicted the re-­opening of the land claims will turn against the ANC in future.

He warned the ANC was “again creating high expectations” among a lot of people.

“The budget for restitution is roughly R3 billion annually. Where will the state get all the money to pay for the claims? If all these new expectations are not fulfilled, it is a recipe for revolution,” he said.

Jerry Thibedi, chair of the portfolio committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, however said the ANC would “eat this elephant” piece by piece. “We are not going to stop this process of land land reform. It is very dangerous to stop the process.

“I want to say to the FF Plus, you own the land; you are surrounded by a sea of hungry people. As we talk, the waves are starting to form. These are waves of anger … which does not bode well for the country,” Thibedi said.

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