In the State of the Nation Address delivered earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma announced plans to amend the Restitution of Land Rights Act to allow for the re-opening of the lodgment of restitution claims by people who missed the deadline of 31 December 1998. In the same address, he promised that government would explore exceptions to the 1913 cut-off date so as to open the process to Khoi and San people who were dispossessed of their land prior to that date.
Yesterday, at a briefing on the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill to the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform made it clear that the proposed Bill addresses only the first of these commitments. Khoi and San people will not be able to lodge claims under the new Bill.
The department announced that although the Bill had not yet been tabled, it planned to have it passed by 31 December of this year. The period for people to lodge claims, it said, will be extended for a period of five years as of that date. The department estimates 397 000 valid new claims will be lodged, costing between R129 and R179 billion. Meanwhile, it also emerged that in all the years that the Land Claims Commission has been operating, it has thus far finalised only in the region of 60 000 claims.
In response to MPs’ questions about the delay in a policy regarding Khoi and San people’s land claims, the department said the matter was “complex”. Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform JD Thibedi did however close the session by indicating that the policy being considered may well include a provision allowing traditional leaders to put in claims in respect of communally held land.
Dr Aninka Claassens of the Centre for Law and Society pointed to the department’s failure to transfer land to groups with court-ordered or approved restitution claims.
She said, “These groups have constituted themselves as democratically elected Communal Property Associations (CPAs). Traditional leaders have expressed their opposition to CPAs and to independent ownership rights within their areas of jurisdiction.
“In this context,” she continued, “the Amendment Bill sounds alarm bells that it will be used to enable chiefs to put in counterclaims that override restitution awards to those who were actually forcibly removed during apartheid.”
For further comment:
Nolundi Luwaya: 083 961 8446
Tara Weinberg: 079 872 9272
For more information go to: http://www.customcontested.co.za/new-restitution-bill-could-open-floodgates-for-chiefs-land-claims/