Empty promises accompany Restitution Bill as public hearings re-commence

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Media release by the Centre for Law & Society

January 13, 2014, marks the second leg of the public hearings on the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill. Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform is promising people that this new bill will bring them land and relief from hardship.

 

However, the public hearings that took in November last year (in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga) revealed serious limitations with the current bill indicating that it will not benefit ordinary people.

The Centre for Law and Society has monitored the public hearings. We note that the following key concerns have been raised, repeatedly, by people at the hearings:

  1. The bill is the central element in a shift of government policy that will do away with elected land holding associations and, instead, transfer restitution land to traditional leaders.
  2. The bill opens the door to traditional leaders claiming ownership of restitution land that, previously, could only be awarded to those who were forcibly removed. There is a fear that traditional leaders will make claims on behalf of ‘communities’.
  3. The bill is integrally linked with the Department’s failure to transfer restitution land to qualifying Communal Property Associations (CPAs) in court-approved restitution settlement agreements.
  4. There is a huge backlog in restitution claims. Some restitution beneficiaries have been waiting more than a decade for their claims to be fully resolved. Against this backdrop it is unclear why the bill – which reopens restitution – is being initiated now and not once the backlog has been cleared
  5. The financial cost of re-opening restitution will delay the processing of existing claims. There is also a lack of clarity on the department’s budget for this.
  6. The grants that previously enabled people to return to, and re-establish themselves on, re-claimed land will no longer apply. Instead, financial support for successful claimants will be made dependent on whether restoration of the land is judged to be likely to result in increased productivity. Restitution without financial support is severely limiting. In practice the restoration of land (rather than cash compensation) will be made dependent on how expensive or viable the transfer is deemed to be.
  7. There will no longer be dedicated judges of the Land Claims Court.

In addition, the bill’s content reflects a lack of meaningful consultation with rural people. The hearings were poorly publicised; their locations were inaccessible to most rural people; there were no copies of the bill available at the hearings; and some attendees felt intimidated by the traditional leaders. These failings impede the possibility for meaningful public participation in the bill’s drafting. Also, the department confused people by stating that the main objective for re-opening restitution is to allow for pre-1913 claims. However, this is not actually specified in the bill.

There is no doubt that land restitution is of fundamental importance to addressing the legacy of past injustices. In this regard the current bill fails to live up to its stated objective.

We reiterate our call for the bill to be withdrawn and for a proper consultation process to be embarked upon as the basis for its redrafting. This is critical to ensure that the bill’s intended purpose, to reverse the legacy of land dispossession, does exactly that.

Attend the hearings and have your say on the bill. Public hearings take place as follows:

  • North West: 14/01 – Greater Taung Municipality (Mabona Taung Art Municipality Hall)
  • Northern Cape: 15/01 – Kuruman (John Taolo Community Hall), 16/01 – ZF Mgcawu district municipality (Tol Speelman Community Hall)
  • Free State: 20/01 – Qwaqwa (Ediqwa Hall, Charles Mopeli Stadium), 21/01 – Mangaung (Kaizer Sebothelo Arena, Botshabelo)
  • Gauteng: 23/01 – Vereeniging (Vereeniging City Hall); 24/01 – Braamfontein, Johannesburg (Metropolitan Centre, Council Chamber Wing)
  • National Hearings in Cape Town: 28/01 – Gugulethu Sports Complex; 29/01 – Parliament (E249 Sec Floor New Wing, National Assembly)

END

Issued by: Centre for Law and Society, University of Cape Town

13 January 2014

For more information, contact:

  • Nomboniso Gasa – 083 451 9321
  • Tara Weinberg – 079 872 9272
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