People living in the rural parts of the country will now be able to register land claims closer to their homes.
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has made the process of a land claim easier by recently unveiling one of the four mobile buses at the Parliamentary precinct in Cape Town.
“You must remember that during the first window, there was no campaigning by government. In other words, taking the policy and opportunity to where people are did not happen.
“The result is that people in deep rural areas and even those in small and rural townships, who could not afford to go where the [lodgement] offices were, missed out on the opportunity.
“Now we have the mobile buses and the smaller trucks to go out there, talk to people and to basically campaign to tell them there is an opportunity to claim.
“So this is taking services to the people rather than inviting people to come to the office,” he said.
The unveiling of the mobile units comes after President Jacob Zuma approved the Restitution Amendment Act into law on 30 June 2014, and in the process re-opened the restitution process for a further period of five years to give those that did not lodge their claims in the first window an opportunity to do so.
During the first window – which ended on 31 December 1998 – the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights received 80 000 land claims.
When he recently addressed the House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament, the President told traditional leaders that they needed to organise themselves in order to assist people to be successful with their land claims.
It is estimated that 7.5 million people were alienated from their land after the 1913 Land Act was signed into law.
The previous round of claims was done between 1994 and 1998.
Three other buses will be launched in other provinces – the Eastern Cape, Free State and the North West.
The launch of the mobile offices follows the opening of 14 lodgement offices across nine provinces.
Minister Nkwinti also said the mobile offices were specifically equipped vehicles fitted with technology to enable the processing of applications for land claims on site.
The Minister said between July 2014 and 8 April 2015, 54 439 claims had been received.
The mobile units are fitted with the technology required to capture the claims on site – including computers and printers.
The bus is also fitted with an electronic ramp that can elevate persons with disabilities from the ground into the mobile office.
The trucks have already been deployed to Qwaqwa, Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State, Eastern Cape and Gauteng, and will move around to different areas.
One mobile office will proceed to North West in August and remain there until March 2016.
A full schedule of where the busses will go, including areas and times, will be communicated to members of the community by the department and the schedule is already available at the department’s 14 lodgement offices, regional offices or on the website.
Two trucks will go into areas where the mobile offices will be deployed to prepare claimants thoroughly.
This will be a process of ensuring that they have everything they need to lodge a valid claim, from the identity documents or information of the persons or relatives they may be claiming on behalf of, to ensure that their claims are not disqualified due to a lack of information.
The Minister said lodging a claim is a free government service and that qualifying individuals have until 30 June 2019 to lodge a claim.
“We are aware that there are people who are going around taking money from vulnerable members of our society with the promise to lodge land claims on their behalf.
“The message to our people is that you do not need to pay money to lodge a land claim.
“Claims can only be lodged at any of our 14 official lodgement sites across the country or at the mobile lodgement offices where professionally trained staff will be on-hand to assist you,” he said.