KZN MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Cyril Xaba.

Durban - More than 9 000 claims have been lodged with the KwaZulu-Natal Land Claims Commission since the reopening of the claims process in July last year.

This is more than half of the 16 000 claims it received between 1994 and 1998.

“A lot of effort has been put into making people aware of this window period and we hope they come in large numbers to lodge claims up until June 2019,” said the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Cyril Xaba, on Monday.

Xaba and his team came to Durban to launch the services of a mobile land restitution office - a bus - which will travel around the province to make the commission’s services more accessible.

There are only two land restitution offices in the province, in Pietermaritzburg and Vryheid, and Xaba said the elderly and poverty stricken often did not have the means to travel to those centres.

Provincial Land Commissioner, advocate Bheki Mbili said the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had bought four buses to travel across the nine provinces.

“KZN shares its bus with the Eastern Cape and it spent three months there before coming here today. After three months it will go back to them and the rotation will continue until the June 2019 deadline,” he said.

The bus can take up to 10 claimants at a time.

The claims are lodged electronically and the claimant receives a text message with a reference number as soon as the information has been up-loaded.

Bajabulile Hadebe, 84, of Mpumalanga Township, west of Durban, was the first to lodge her claim in the mobile office on Monday.

Her family were dispossessed of their land in the 1960s and were forced to move to Hammarsdale.

“I was a youngster when we were forced to leave our land,” she said.

Doris Shoba’s family were among those stripped of their land along with the Hadebes. She said their lives changed overnight as they had to rely on her father’s meagre income for food and other necessities.

“It was very hard because we were a farming community so we would use the barter system and only buy a few things from the shops and suddenly everything we needed had to be bought,” said Shoba.

The pair said they had faith that the government would ensure that their grandchildren would be able to enjoy their ancestral land even if they themselves were no longer around to witness it.

The commission is yet to start processing the new claims because it is still working through a backlog of 2 000 claims lodged before the December 1998 deadline.

Xaba said nationally more than 77 000 claims had been settled.

“A total of 371 191 households involving 1.83 million individuals have benefited from the settlement of these claims.”

The government had spent more than R24 billion on land restitution, of which more than R7b was paid out as financial compensation.

The Mercury