1 August 2008
Since its establishment in 1994, South Africa’s Commission on Restitution of Land Rights has settled 74 808 out of 79 696 land claims lodged at a cost of R16-billion. Acting chief land claims commissioner Blessing Mphela says all outstanding claims could be settled by 2011.
“This has benefited 289 937 households and about 1.4-million individuals across the country,” Mphela told a media briefing in Polokwane in Limpopo province this week, adding that by the end of June the government had allocated over R16-billion for all settled land claims.
He said that in June alone, 2 621 households had received back 81 050 hectares of land worth R186-million as part of the commission’s efforts to fast track the delivery of land in commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the promulgation of the Native Land Act of 1913.
While earlier indicating that it would take at least another five years to settle the outstanding claims, Mphela this week said that the commission was committed to settling the remaining 4 888 outstanding claims by 2011.
“We have to note that these outstanding claims are difficult to settle as a result of the nature of the challenges that affects the claims, such as opposition from some of the land owners who are disputing the validity of the claims, exorbitant land prices, claims that have been referred to the land claims court, family disputes, as well as boundary disputes involving traditional leaders,” Mphela explained.
He said one of the challenges encountered in providing settlement support relates to the issue of governance and institutional support from other government structures.
He pointed out that the commission had stepped in to fulfil the function of the beleaguered Land Bank in providing post-settlement support to emerging farmers had resulted in the commission’s resources being thinly spread.
“The dual role of investigating and settling claims on the one hand, and providing development support on the other hand coupled with the nature of challenges that we have encountered along the way, has had a negative impact on the commission’s ability to finalise the settlement of restitution claims within the timeframe earmarked initially for that purpose,” he said.
The Land Claims Commission was initially given a 2005 deadline to settle all the claims, but the deadline was initially extended to December 2008, and now to 2011.
In addition, the commission has asked Cabinet for an additional R18-billion to settle the outstanding claims, while also urging the Department of Agriculture to have a mechanism that links new land owners to all services and infrastructure available to larger commercial farmers.
“For land to be productive, it requires the full participation of relevant role players from the public and private sector,” Mphela said. “If the processes are not aligned, including the alignment of white agriculture and emerging black farmers, then we will have a problem.”