MINISTER of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza, right, together with panel members at a media briefing to unpack the contents of the report of the Presidential Expert Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture in Pretoria yesterday. The report makes recommendations that will assist in accelerating the redress of historical land distribution imbalances. 
Cape Town - The Land Claims Commission has paid more than R1.7 billion in claims to thousands of beneficiaries as the country battles with the restitution of land claims.

In the report tabled by Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in Parliament yesterday, the department was still trying to process many more claims.

The Constitutional Court had ordered Parliament to rectify the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill by last year. But Parliament had not finalised the legislation despite requesting an extension from the Constitutional Court.

In the annual report for the 2018/19 financial year the Land Claims Commission said they settled claims for 177 623 hectares of land. This cost the government more than R881 million for the land.

“A total of 37 902 people benefited from the restitution programme and a total of over R1.7bn was transferred to beneficiaries in the form of financial compensation,” stated the commission in the annual report.

Former minister of rural development and land reform Gugile Nkwinti warned a few years ago that many people were taking financial compensation over the actual pieces of land.

He said people preferred to take cash than getting their land.

Parliament is now busy with the process to amend the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The Constitutional Review Committee processed the expropriation report before the elections.

Mathole Motshekga is chairing the ad hoc committee on the expropriation of land without compensation and the Constitutional Review Committee.

Opposition parties have threatened to take Parliament to court for not following proper processes in the expropriation of land without compensation process.

The national legislature wants the amendment to the Constitution for the expropriation of land without compensation to be concluded by early next year.

This followed the adoption of a resolution by Parliament last week.

The Land Claims Commission said the issue of restitution was ongoing and it would continue to provide the necessary support to the claimants.

When the Restitution of Land Rights Bill was passed by Parliament in 2014 the government had envisaged to have 400 000 new claims by the end of 2020.

The national legislature still needs to rectify the bill before new claims can be processed again in line with the Constitutional Court judgment.

Politics Bureau