Land claims to increase

2015-08-06 06:00

THE number of land claims in Ugu District is set to increase after the Commission for Land Rights Restitution announced it will be in Port Shepstone from 16 to 18 September taking new submissions.

A total of 359 land claims have been recorded in Ugu District since the new land claims lodgement period opened in July 2014.

One of the most prominent cases in the past few years has been that between Mavundla Tribal Authority against Lion Valley Farm outside Gamalakhe, owned by Len Pienaar.

After the court ruled in Pienaar­’s favour in 2010, he has had several run-ins with the neighbouring community, which culminated in his farm being burnt in 2014 causing millions of rands in damage.

Speaking on behalf of the tribal authority at the time, Jimmy Mnguni said the community knows nothing about the fire. He confirmed however, that they had submitted claims for 161 farms, including the land next to the Margate airport.

Farm lobby groups have expressed concern that at least “80-100% of all farm land” in KZN is already under claim from the previous land period, which closed in 1998, and that the sheer volume of claims does not speak to the amount of available farmland either.

Danie du Plessis, KZN Agricultural Union regional representative said their “experts” have estimated that there could be as many as 370 000 claims in this province alone.

“There is simply not enough agricultural land. Unless there is a time frame put in place on the land claims issue we could be facing claims for the next 30 to 40 years,” said Du Plessis.

He said while the new claim period is asking for greater detail from the claimants, the commission would need to be better resourced to review each claim.

Du Plessis said what compounded the issue was that once a farm had been “claimed against” and restitution had been made usually through a cash payout, the same farm could be claimed against again by new beneficiaries leading to instability of tenure for the farmer­.

KZN Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) head Sandy le Marque said while they support land reform there needs to be a “departure point” to end claims continuing years into the future.

The land commission document, presented by KZN’s chief director of restitution, Advocate Bheki Mbili, last week to the KZN Legislature said the research of new claims will “commence after­ the research on old claims [from 1998] has been completed”.

He however, said one “cannot rule out the risk of fraudulent claims” even if all required documents are available and in order, saying they had systems in place to tackle this

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