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More people set to get back their land

Written by Nthambeleni Gabara
Indigenous South Africans, including the descendants of the Khoi and San communities, stand to benefit from the pending reopening of applications for land restitution.

Government has started to change the law governing land rights to allow people who missed the previous deadline of 31 December 1998 to apply for restitution. The new cut-off date will enable people who were dispossessed of their land by apartheid laws such as the 1913 Native Land Act to regain their land back.

The Land Rights Amendment Bill will extend the date for lodging a claim for restitution to 18 June 2018. Once the law has been changed, government will invite people who were dispossessed of land and who meet the criteria, to check if they have a valid claim and, if they do, to lodge their claim.

The Bill was published for public comment in June and will now be tabled for Cabinet approval and taken to Parliament to complete the legislative process.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said the Khoi and San people were the first to defend the land when the country was invaded by colonialists.

“We could not, as a democratic government, under- standing our history, be happy and satisfied when some of us were not catered for and I think it was not a deliberate exclusion, but it was more of a systematic exclusion. “The Khoi and San were left out of the process even though they were the first to be dispossessed of their ancestral land before the notorious 1913 Native Land Act was passed so now is time for us to go back and go beyond the cut-off date of 1913.”

Audit of registered state land report

Cabinet recently approved a report presented by Chief Surveyor-General, Mmuso Riba. It revealed that private individuals, companies and trusts owned 96 million hectares of land. “We were able to determine that the state owned 14 per cent of land in South Africa, and private entities - whether it’s private companies or pri vate individuals - owned 79 per cent of land,” said Riba. Spokesperson for the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform Mtobeli Mxotwa said the purpose of the exercise was to determine first how much land the state owns, what it is used for, who the occupants/users are and what buildings and improvements exist on it.

This will be used to update the land register which will serve as the basis for enhanced land planning and administration, including other functions relating to property portfolio management as well.