New public participation process on land reform to begin
In response to a Constitutional Court judgment that nullified the 2014 Restitution of Land Rights Act citing inadequate public participation, Parliament’s portfolio committee on rural development and land reform on Thursday said it would conduct a thorough and extensive public consultation process to allow as many South Africans as possible to give input on the redrafted Restitution of Land Rights Bill.
The Restitution of Land Rights Bill, which was reintroduced as a Private Members’ Bill by National Assembly member Pumzile Justice Mnguni, seeks to reopen the land claims process after the 1998 closing date.
Mnguni has briefed the portfolio committee on the new bill, which he says will be a redress for millions of South Africans who lost land though the notorious 1913 Natives Land Act, but failed to lodge land claims before the December 31, 1998 closing date.
“There is huge injustice that is facing us if we do not reopen the lodging of land claims.
“In order for justice to be done, let’s reopen it for the people who did not claim to participate in the process,” Mnguni told the committee.
Parliament passed the Restitution of Land Rights Act in 2014 to reopen the lodging of land claims for a period of five years.
The Land Access Movement of South Africa (Lamosa) took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which declared the act was invalid, after finding that Parliament had failed to satisfy its obligation to facilitate public involvement in accordance with section 72 (1)(a) of the constitution”.
Mnguni said the 2014 Amendment Act that was nullified by the Constitutional Court had a five-year period for the claims that were going to end in 2019, to be lodged.
At the time of the Constitutional Court judgment, the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights had already received 163 000 land claims. Those claims were frozen and could not be processed.
In striking down the Amendment Act, the Constitutional Court also protects those claims that were submitted in terms of the nullified act.
Land restitution in South Africa is an emotive issue.
For the past 23 years, the country has been hard at work trying to amicably reverse land dispossessions that occurred as a result of the 1913 Natives Land Act.
Although significant progress has been made, it has emerged that the first phase of restitution had left many deserving citizens outside the land reform programme after the December 1998 deadline for the lodging of land claims.
Mnguni estimates that as many as 7.5 million to 8 million land claims could still be lodged, according to scientific estimates.
Citing that a mere 80 000 land claims were lodged by 1998 and that a further 163 000 were lodged but “frozen” during the interdicted period from 2014 to July 28, 2016 – the date of the Constitutional Court judgment – this means that the total of claimants left out stands at about 98% versus the 2% that had lodged land claims.
The effect of this Amendment Bill is that land claims will be reopened.
The portfolio committee is planning to conduct countrywide public hearings to give citizens an opportunity to make representations on the bill.
Acting chairperson of the portfolio committee on rural development and land reform