The KwaZulu-Natal Commission for Restitution of Land Rights has settled over 15 000 land claims and still have about 1 800 claims that are yet to be settled. Picture: Independent Media
Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Commission for Restitution of Land Rights has settled more than 15 000 claims amounting to R9 billion in the province.

The commission’s provincial head, advocate Bheki Mbili, said on Wednesday that the claims related to those submitted to a cut-off date that was December 31, 1998.

“The over 15 000 land claims we have settled come from that lot. We still have about 1 800 claims that we have not yet settled. The people who fall within that category would not be happy because they still have not gotten their claims,” said Mbili.

“We have spent R9bn in settling the over 15 000 claims. We are reversing the legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act. There are people today who, had it not been for this programme of government, would not have had land because it could have been taken away by other forces pre-democratic South Africa.”

The claims were from across all provincial districts and local municipalities.

University of KZN agriculture expert Dr Maxwell Mudhara said most of the land given through land restitution was underutilised.

“Some of the land was lying idle, while theoretically the beneficiaries must produce more than that land was producing before. There should be more intense use now, but in agriculture, so many things have to come together for it to be productive,” said Mudhara.

“We need after-settlement support. People have to be into farming since some people want land for farming and others want it for settlement. So if they want land for farming they could be allocated accordingly, and those who want it for residential purposes should also get it accordingly.”

Mudhara said the allocation of the land should be commensurate with the resources. “If I am given 20 hectares then I need resources that are going to allow me to use 20ha, whether by loan or grant. Even if one gets 100ha to grow gradually, then they should get resources for the starting amount,” he pointed out.

The province’s Department of Agriculture spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyana, said MEC Themba Mthembu had been consistent that the department should go back to the failed land reform projects.

“Those are productive lands and we need to go back to see how do we use them and offer training, especially to youth in those areas, to ensure that the areas are agriculturally viable,” said Nkwanyana.

The department said it had assisted with the necessary post-settlement support, but in some cases, community members who were not interested in farming caused disputes that saw the productivity cease.

“There is no way that land can be allowed to lie fallow. Where it is necessary we will use it as government. We can take it and allow other people who can use it profitably.

“KZN is a challenge in terms of food security and declining commercial agriculture. This means the government must intervene, and where necessary, the government must tell those people that they have failed and they would give other people an opportunity to work their lands profitably. There are people who want to do agricultural work but do not have the land. We can even ask that the owners lease that land.”

Nkwanyana said the efforts were in response to ensuring that agriculture must lead the economic recovery.

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