Johannesburg - A recently released report has found that
financial compensation for land restitution was mostly well spent, despite
misgivings by the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights.
In about 30% of the cases, the restitution award did produce
"a substantial economic benefit" - according to the report, “Paying
for the Past: Addressing Past Property" by Professor Bernadette Atuahene
"The majority of these people spent their financial
award on improving their current homes, thus increasing the value of their
primary assets," Atuahene writes.
In 32% of the cases, there was moderate economic impact and
in 38% of cases there was only a small economic impact to the recipients.
Atuahene said that despite these successes, many commission officials had a dim view of their own work, according to anecdotal information. Some believe the compensation is wasted because the money is gone but the recipients are still living in poverty.
She quotes one official as saying: "Financial
compensation is not having an effect. We will assist with payment in the
morning, and in the evening everyone is in the bottle store. They don't know
what to do with the money."
As a result of this view, Atuahene notes the commission has
shifted its focus from financial compensation and is now emphasising land
transfer. She argues that the commission should reconsider its new emphasis.
"Since the commission has proven it has limited capacity
to transfer land, it must find ways to make financial compensation more
effective," Atuahene said.
She argues that the commission should offer more options for
potential recipients. As an example, if the commission wants to promote home
improvements, and a person is entitled to a R20 000 financial award, they
should instead be given the option of a R30 000 voucher for building materials.
The commission could offer similar bonuses if they, and the
recipients, wanted to use their financial awards for education or job training.
They should also provide financial counsellors to help
claimants choose between their different options.
"The key is to give beneficiaries choice and to incentivise (sic), not force them to use their financial awards in ways that (will) have a lasting economic impact," Atuahene writes.