Durban - The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is conducting public hearings on land restitution to establish better ways of fast-tracking the process, which the government has admitted is expensive and difficult to handle.

During a round table discussion held at the party’s provincial office in Durban on Tuesday, provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Cyril Xaba said R7 billion had been invested in the process of land restitution in the province, which had settled only 14 000ha.

He told representatives from land rights organisations, traditional leaders and academics the government was disappointed that nationally it had managed to settle only 8% of claims by the end of its deadline last year, instead of its 30% target.

“Because of the cost we are unable to settle some cases, leading to the collapse of operations on the land,” said Xaba.

He said development finance banks had stringent lending policies which made it hard to secure loans to settle claims and finance new land owners.

“Their appetite for risk is very low,” he said.

He said amending the constitution would be an alternative way to fast-track land reform.

“We accept the fact that laws and legislation are not cast in stone. Where we pick up that the constitution is becoming a hindrance towards realising objectives that are in the constitution itself, then we must consider reviewing those provisions, including amending them to bring them into line with the vision of our founding fathers,” he said.

A senior manager at the national department of rural development and land reform, Masiphula Mbongwa, said on a national level the government had spent R18bn to settle 77 000ha of land. He said 400 000 families had benefited.

The government was not proud of its progress in this regard.

“Because of the constitution we cannot say that what was taken from us through blood can be reclaimed through blood. The constitution prevents us from going that route,” he said.

Mbongwa said part of the land earmarked for claims belonged to wealthy foreigners. He said Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti had suggested that each district should have its own land committee to deal with land held by foreigners.

Provincial Land Claims Commissioner advocate Bheki Mbili said the government was passing new legislation that would do away with the willing-buyer-willing-seller policy.

“There is a plan to change it because it is delaying the redistribution process,” he said.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said public views would be integrated into the party’s land programmes.

“These are public policy engagements which seek to draw the understanding of the people on the policy and ensure that we mobilise ourselves and society so we have a coherent implementing programme.”

The Mercury