Slow progress in land reform
A total of 8 770 land restitution claims nationwide were still outstanding, with the lion’s share (2 927) in Mpumalanga, acting chief land claims commissioner Tele Maphoto said on Tuesday.
Briefing the National Assembly’s rural development and land reform committee, Maphoto said that, to date, 76 506 restitution claims had been settled since the commission was established in 1995, but this figure included claims that were “partially” settled.
Maphoto said KwaZulu-Natal followed Mpumalanga, with 2 110 unresolved claims, while, in the Western Cape, 1 787 were still outstanding. In Limpopo there were 765 outstanding claims, with 639 in the Eastern Cape, 323 in Gauteng and North West, 140 in the Northern Cape and 79 in the Free State.
A total of 16 380 claims had been settled or partially settled in the Eastern Cape, 15 571 in the Western Cape, 15 081 in KZN, 13 202 in Gauteng, 3 718 in North West, 3 384 in Limpopo, 3 708 in the Northern Cape, 2 790 in Mpumalanga and 2 672 in the Free State.
Maphoto said 2.8 million hectares had been acquired for restitution beneficiaries from private individuals, of which a total of 979 921ha had been transferred into the name of claimant communities. Of these, about 140 000ha had been transferred into the name of the state due to community disputes and other challenges.
The commission also did not have a comprehensive database of details of all farms transferred or title deeds information, but was in the process of developing a system.
Maphoto said the commission had embarked on a process, in March last year, to verify the accuracy of information regarding the number of claims lodged, and the number of claims that were outstanding. In December last year, the department started verifying the accuracy of information on commitments that had been made to restitution claimants. He said the preliminary findings of a records management project tasked with scrutinising claims had found that some land claims could have been excluded.
The work is due to be completed by August this year.
Among the challenges affecting the settlement of claims was the fact that claims on privately owned land and claims for financial compensation had been prioritised as they helped in spending the budget. A further challenge was conflict among beneficiaries as well as claims on unsurveyed state land and communal land, as well as claims on invaded state land.
Long-term leases on state land also posed challenges, as did demands for market-related payment from state-owned entities and municipalities. Maphoto said among the remedial actions planned to address the challenges was to prioritise validated claims on state land for finalisation by 2013.
A survey of state land would be completed by 2013 and a process of engagement with the National Treasury on state-owned entities and municipalities demanding market-related payment would also take place. Mediation of conflicts among beneficiaries would also be offered. Rural Development and Land Affairs Minister Gugile Nkwinti told the committee conflicts were the real problem behind a lack of development of land, but said the proposed Land Rights Management Board – which Agri-SA had asked to pilot – would be a means of solving a lot of disputes out of court.
DA MP and spokesman on Rural Development and Land Reform Athol Trollip yesterday slammed the report as “flimsy and threadbare’’.
“It is a shame that after 16 years of existence, this is all the commission could come up with.
“If only 900 000 hectares of the 2.9 million hectares purchased have been transferred with title to beneficiaries, that means that the 1.9 million hectares that remain to be transferred is, in many cases, rendered dormant.
“There is very little economic activity taking place on that land. Once land is identified for restitution or there is a land claim on it, the banks are very reluctant to make capital finance available to land owners that have a claim on their properties.
“This means that productivity grinds to a halt and this influences food security severely. Not only have the beneficiaries waited in suspension for the last 16 years, but agricultural activity and the whole economy is undermined by the dragging of feet of this commission and this department,” he said.
Trollip called on Nkwinti to provide facts around the performance agreements of all senior managers in his department.
“If the people responsible for land transformation and restitution and transfer of title are not performance evaluated, we will wait another 16 years to get another threadbare report on how little progress has been made in getting land productive and making an impact on dispossessed people’s lives,” he said.
A planned briefing by the department on the Special Investigating Unit’s report on allegations of fraud and corruption of officials in the department was postponed yesterday because President Jacob Zuma had not yet seen the report.
Committee chairman Stone Sizani said it would be “imprudent” to release the report before Zuma had had a chance to look at it.