Johannesburg - The government has paid out almost R3 billion in land claims this year, despite mounting pressure for the Land Claims Commission to fast-track more claims in the coming year.
Chief land claims commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo said in the commission’s annual report for 2014/15, tabled in Parliament last week, that the claims have eased the burden on the commission, but they have decided to prioritise old claims as well as those lodged during the new window period.
The commission is still processing old claims, dating back to the 1990s before the first deadline of 1998.
However, there were already more than 57 000 new claims that have been lodged since July last year when the new window opened.
Gobodo said out of the 428 claims they settled in the past financial year, 241 were urban claims while 187 were rural claims.
Gobodo said the total cost for the claims was R2.7bn.
“The settlement of the claims benefited 78 600 beneficiaries from 15 457 households of which 5 773 are female-headed households,” said Gobodo.
She said they would also push for the prioritisation of claims lodged before the deadline of 1998.
More than 5 000 such claims were still outstanding, with the Land Claims Commission trying to get them out of the way as quickly as possible.
KwaZulu-Natal was the only province that received the largest payout on claims with more than R1bn.
It was followed by the Eastern Cape where the state spent R418m on claims.
In Limpopo the state paid out more than R413m on land claims while in the North West it spent R357m.
In the province of Mpumalanga they settled claims for R243m while in the Western Cape more than R105m was paid out.
A share of R99.5m went to the Northern Cape and R48m went to its neighbouring province of the Free State.
Gauteng was the only province with the lowest amount paid out, which was R38m.
President Jacob Zuma reopened claims in July last year after he signed into law the Land Restitution Amendment Act.
The act calls on the state to process new claims for the next five years.
However, the deadline may be extended if there were still people left out like the last time. The government has been urging people to lodge claims in order to allow for this period of redress to pass.
The issue of land reform is one of the priorities of the ANC following its 2007 Polokwane conference resolution to fast-track land reform.
It is one of the five key prioritises of the government, and has been such since the current administration took over in 2009.
The fiscus is said to have set aside resources to deal with the perennial question of funding the programme for the next few years.