31 July 2014
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has processed close to 5 000 new applications since President Jacob Zuma signed a law re-opening South Africa’s land claims lodgement process.
Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014 at the end of last month, allowing people who were removed from their land under apartheid rule, but who missed an earlier deadline for lodging claims for compensation, to do within the next five years.
It is estimated that at least 3.5-million South Africans were forcibly removed from their land as a result of the Native Land Act of 1913, which effectively reserved 87 percent of land in the country for the white minority. To date, an estimated 1.7-million people have benefitted from the country’s restitution programme.
Briefing members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on rural development and land reform at the department’s regional office in Mowbray, Cape Town on Wednesday, Chief Land Claims Commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo said the process had gone smoothly since re-opening.
“As at 25 July 2014, the claims captured over the past four weeks increased to 4 917. The electronic lodgement system has been stable and all 14 lodgement sites are fully operational.”
Gobodo said it was difficult to anticipate how many claimants would lodge new claims going forward, but that her office had the capacity to facilitate all claims.
Most new claims are expected to come from individuals and communities who were left out of the previous claims round – between 1994 and 1998 – but have since become aware of their rights.
Claims that could not be finalised during the pre-1998 round would be prioritised, Gobodo said.
The department will deploy mobile offices to rural areas to help people who might not be able to afford transport to prepare their claims. The offices will ensure that claimants have everything they need to lodge a valid claim – including information on the people on whose behalf they may be claiming – to insure their claims are not disqualified for technical reasons.
Phumzile Ngwenya-Mabila, the chairperson of the portfolio committee, said the MPs’ had decided to visit the Mowbray centre in order assess the lodgement process and the progress made since the second phase was opened.