Hundreds of land restitution claimants are owed a total of R71 million in cash settlements but have never collected the money, with some of the outstanding payouts dating back more than nine years.
Tragically, after succeeding in the arduous process of lodging their claims for land taken from them under apartheid, some of the claimants have since died, never having received their rightful compensation.
Replying in writing to a parliamentary question from DA land reform spokesman Athol Trollip, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said that in some cases, the department had been interdicted from making the payments pending the resolution of disputes over the claims between families or communities.
The department’s spokesman, Sehloho Mphati, said some of the intended beneficiaries had lost their vouchers or IDs before being able to collect. Others wound up in hospital, were arrested or died before getting their money, and some had moved without informing the department.
If the money was not collected within three or four months of being released for payment, it was returned to the Treasury’s national revenue fund, he said.
Trollip told Independent Newspapers that one of the problems was that the department had finalised most of the claims that were easy to settle and was now dealing with the trickier ones.
This meant unresolved claims were likely to become more and more difficult to settle and progress even slower.
However, he said he couldn’t understand how there could be R71m in unpaid claims – money which could have been returned to circulate in the economy and improve the lot of the claimants.
Nkwinti’s reply lists 1 887 unpaid claims from around the country.
Mphati said the money could be retrieved from the Treasury for payment if the beneficiaries were found.
In a progress report to Parliament in February, acting chief land claims commissioner Tele Maphoto said a total of 79 696 land claims had been lodged by the cut-off date.
There were 3 346 outstanding claims, of which 1 359 were in KwaZulu-Natal. Since 1995, 76 506 claims had been settled.