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The five-year period for the lodgement of land claims for citizens who missed out on the December 1998 closing date, which has been proposed in the draft Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, will be inadequate, considering that over seven million claimants are potentially yet to submit their claims.

This observation was made yesterday during public hearings in Port St Johns, Eastern Cape, on the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, which seeks to reopen the period for the lodgement of land claims for a period of five years from the day the bill is signed into law.

Residents filled the local town hall to capacity to comment on the bill which, among other objectives, seeks to make provision for the reopening of the lodgement period for claims. The previous period for lodging claims ended in December 1998. Community members told a delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform that the five years of the first phase (1994 to 1998) left many people out of the restitution programme. Approximately 80 000 land claims were lodged during this period, with a further 160 000 lodged between 2014 and 2016, after Parliament passed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act.

However, the Land Access Movement of South Africa (Lamosa) took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which declared that the act was invalid, because “Parliament failed to satisfy its obligation to facilitate public involvement in accordance with Section 72 (1)(a) of the Constitution”. The Constitutional Court gave Parliament two years to fix the problem and, in response to the court order, the Bill was redrafted and reintroduced as a Private Members’ Bill by National Assembly Member, Mr Pumzile Justice Mnguni, who is also the Whip of the committee.

Community member Mr Xolani Gqweta urged the committee to consider amending the bill to increase the period allowed for the lodgment of claims. “If only 80 000 claimed in the first phase, which was also five years, I don’t think five more years is enough for the millions of people who were dispossessed. Give the process more time. Let the people claim,” he said.

Citizens also called for more outreach awareness programmes on how to lodge a claim, should the bill be passed and the process reopened, as some people had been left out in the past because of lack of information. The bill continues to receive overwhelming support from the public in the different provinces visited by the committee.

Committee member Mr Andrew Madella said: “We have heard your pleas for a longer period for the lodging of claims. As the committee continues working on the bill, we will also look at the possibility of increasing the five-year period for the lodging of claims.”

Sakhile Mokoena
29 June 2018