Govt re-opens land claims door

Written by Ntambeleni Gabara
Victims of land repossession, who missed the original land claim deadline, have another chance to lodge their claims.

This comes after President Jacob Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, which re-opens the restitution claims process that closed at the end of 1998, giving claimants five years - up to 30 June 2019 - to lodge land claims.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said communities and individuals could now claim back land from which they were forcibly removed due to the 1913 Natives Land Act and other racially biased laws.

“The first period for lodgement was opened between 1994 and 1998. Although land claims were made and settled, a great number of people complained that they had not been aware of the process at the time and as such they had missed the initial lodgement window,” the Minister explained.

Given the country’s sad history of land dispossession, Minister Nkwinti said the Restitution of Land Rights programme was a necessary intervention for redress, reconciliation and nation building, which is in line with the National Development Plan (NDP)’s goal of the eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030.

According to the Minister, currently there are about 8 471 claims lodged before the 1998 cut off period that have not yet been settled or resolved.

“These have been prioritised for settlement. I am appealing to those individuals and communities affected to continue to exercise patience while we are resolving their claims and not to lodge their claims again. The outstanding claims will be processed simultaneously with the new ones,” he said.

Minister Nkwinti also issued a stern warning to those who would use the opportunity to rob people of their hard earned money, pretending to help claimants to lodge while charging a fee.

“Lodging a claim is a free government service and anyone who is charging money is doing so illegally. It is also illegal to submit a fraudulent claim, including not disclosing other potential interested parties.

“It is also unlawful for a person to obstruct another from lodging a claim. I am calling on members of society to report their suspicions about any illegal activity in this regard by calling the government anti-fraud hotline number 0800 701 701,” he said.

For more information on the land claim process call the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights on 0800 007 095 or visit www.ruraldevelopment.gov.za