Hundreds of land restitution claimants are owed a total of R71 million in cash settlements but have never collected the money, with some of these outstanding payouts dating back more than nine years.

Tragically, after succeeding in the arduous process of lodging their claims for land taken from them under apartheid, some of the claimants have since died.

Replying in writing to a parliamentary question from DA land reform spokesman Athol Trollip, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said in some cases the department had been interdicted from making the payments pending the resolution of disputes over the claims between families or communities.

Department spokesman Sehloho Mphati said some of the intended beneficiaries had lost their vouchers or IDs before being able to collect. Others wound up in hospital, were arrested or died before getting their money. Some had moved without informing the department.

If the money was not collected within three or four months of being released for payment it was returned to the Treasury’s National Revenue Fund.

Trollip said one of the problems was that the department had finalised most of the claims that were easy to settle and was now dealing with the trickier claims, where there were disputes as to the rightful claimants to the land, where a tribal authority was involved, or where valuable mineral deposits had been discovered subsequent to the claim and prospecting rights granted to someone else.

This meant claims were likely to become more and more difficult to settle and progress even slower.

However, he said he couldn’t understand how there could be R71m in unpaid claims – money which could have been returned to circulate in the economy and improve the lot of the claimants.

Nkwinti’s reply lists 1 887 unpaid claims from around the country, including 19 from District Six, 13 from the Cape metropole, 24 from Hluluwe and 19 from Mbombela.

By far the largest outstanding amount is for settlements less than a year old (R18.15m). But R9.45m has not been paid out between six and seven years after the claim was finalised and there is R1.83m in unpaid claims dating to 2002/3.

Mphati said on Thursday the department ran newspaper and radio adverts calling for the claimants to collect payments, and raised the matter at community meetings.

The money could be retrieved from the Treasury for payment if the beneficiaries were later found, he said.

In February acting chief land claims commissioner Tele Maphoto told Parliament 79 696 land claims had been lodged by the cut-off date.

There were 3 346 outstanding claims, of which 1 359 were in KwaZulu-Natal, while 76 506 claims had been settled since 1995.

A total of 2.8 million hectares had been approved for acquisition, of which 979 921ha had been transferred to claimant communities and the state.

Grants paid out since 1995 amounted to R4.23bn. There were 152 land claim dispute cases in court, with the most in KwaZulu-Natal.

Political Bureau