Land Restitution Conference Under Way

Pretoria- A two day land restitution consultative conference began on Sunday to evaluate the impact of the Land Restitution Programme.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti acknowledged that government has not moved fast enough in addressing challenges facing the programme, but has assured claimants that government's shortcomings would be addressed swiftly.

"I acknowledge that we have not done well in managing the restitution programme, as government, causing strain, pain and frustration.

"Some of the people who were expected to have benefited from the restitution programme have even passed on. On behalf of government, I apologise," he said.

The objective of the consultative conference, according to the minister was to evaluate the impact of the Land Restitution Programme in terms of its intended objective and the restitution of land rights on people who lodged claims.

"The key word is equitable redress. We must therefore look at what have been our successes, our shortcomings as well as what is to be done. We must stay focused on this task throughout these two days," he said.

Charlie Moagi from the Dikgatlhong Communal Property Association (CPA) said: "We are gathered to set out clear programmes on land restitution."

The 1 296 delegates who attended the gathering included beneficiaries of the restitution programme and those whose land claims had not been resolved. Successes and shortcomings of the programme were also looked at.

Success of the restitution programme, according to delegates, includes the restoration of human dignity by restoring land rights that were dispossessed as a result of unjust laws of the past; payment of financial compensation for such dispossessions and the provision of alternative land.

The shortcomings includes limitation of the right to restitution by the imposition of the June 1913 and December 1998 cut-off dates; implementation of the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle and manipulation of the land prices.

Some of the proposed remedial actions include the review of restitution cut off dates; social facilitation and mobilization; capacity building; institutional facilitation and enterprise development to beneficiaries and the establishment of national, provincial and district forums for improved communication between beneficiaries themselves and beneficiaries with the department, among others.

Other proposed remedial actions included making developmental grants available swiftly; eradicating corruption and undue influence to employees as well as the review of the legislation and policy on the issuance of prospecting and mining licenses; communal property associations; management of trust property and the development of claimed land prior to the settlement of the claim.

In 2008, former Acting Chief Land Claims Commissioner, Blessings Mphela said all outstanding land claims in the country would be settled by 2011. During that period, the remaining and outstanding claims stood at 4 888.

He said since the commission on restitution of land rights was established in 1994, a total of 74 808 out of 79 696 claims had been settled.

The Land Claims Commission was initially given a 2005 deadline to settle all the claims, but the deadline was extended to December 2008. However, the 2008 deadline was also missed and was extended to 2011 and the commission has asked Cabinet for an additional R18 billion to settle the outstanding claims.

Nthambeleni Gabara