Minister now quoted in Parly minutes…
In a press media briefing and subsequently in a meeting of the rural development and land reform parliamentary portfolio committee, minister Gugile Nkwinti confirmed that the whole process of land restitution for black persons dispossessed of their land was to be re-opened for a period of five years. Under questioning, he confirmed that no constitutional changes were envisaged.
During the course of the minister’s departmental presentation on strategy leading to the budget vote, a week later in Parliament, the minister, when confronted by opposition MPs asking for a direct answer as to whether he would call for constitutional change on property rights or not, replied that there was “no such question arising.”
There was considerable satisfaction from opposition members as a consequence since such a statement, they said after the meeting disposed of fears of arbitrary state expropriation of land.
Nevertheless, the minister was clear in his responses that the process of “willing seller, willing buyer” had been abandoned as a state mechanism. He emphasised that whilst the principle of market valuation would still apply, it would be up to the new state valuator to establish price and not the parties involved to barter, sometimes endlessly, he commented.
Subsequently, in the newly proposed Bill on property valuation itself, the position was more clearly expressed with the proposal of an office of a Valuer-General,which the department said in its briefing to parliamentarians, had been necessary in order ” to establish an entity to carve through the current settlement process”.
The minister stated during his briefing at the time to parliamentarians that since its inception, the state’s restitution programme had benefited some 370,000 households. This meant, he said, that some 1.83m persons had benefited so far from the process, as against an estimated 3.5m people who had been “forcibly removed from their land as a result of colonialisation and racial and discriminatory laws”.
The new closing deadline for lodgement of land claims has now been set for mid 2019 and a booklet on how to lodge a claim was circulated amongst members and which is now in public circulation.
The minister emphasised his point that claim forms would not be distributed but that claimants, whether they be a direct descendant, a juristic person such as a company or trust or a “representative of a community”, who felt they had a right because they were dispossessed of land rights had to call first upon a land affairs lodgement office.Mobile lodgement offices would visit all areas, the department told MPs, and the lodgement process required no fees.
Under questioning, the minister confirmed that over 8,000 claims were still outstanding from the previous lodgement process and that these would be finalised with the new process now being instituted. R24bn has so far been expended in financial settlements or land purchases.
The minister said he had not set a target for any new claims but he was confident that the programme would be achieved at a faster rate this time around because claims could be lodged electronically.
Disquiet was expressed by some MPs that land acquisition and financial compensation were the choice for claimants. Some MPs expressed the view that they were “uncomfortable” with a monetary solution as a solution to dispossession as this almost amounted to a bribe.
DA MP Thomas Walters said in his view the reason for the slow rate of land occupation was not, as the ANC claimed, the result of whether or not there was a solution on the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle but rather a reflection of the fact that 92% of land claimants preferred to take cash pay-outs instead of working the land and creating jobs.
Minister Nkwinti stated that both avenues of compensation were a correct solution since in all approved cases, the parties had been wronged and deserved redress.
What started the latest row
As part of the package, minister Nkwinti said, he had made a further proposal, much publicised, that farm workers would be enabled by law to have a share of the land they have worked on according to their service in years. Public comment had been called for and the results would be put to Parliament. Only then could the final result become a debatable issue.
Minister Nkwinti made special reference to the complex issues surrounding land acquisition and land claims in the Western Cape, which he said were “very complex”. In answer to questions on the Khoi and San issues and their claims going back further into South Africa’s history, the minister said the current process was to reverse the legacy of the 1913 Native’s Act and the damage caused by apartheid.
However, he said, some sort of agreement had to be made on the Khoi and San issues and in one instance already such matters had been dealt when applicants had asked for preservation of an area as a heritage site and government had made the acquisition accordingly. A separate report to the President’s Office was to be made on the Khoi and San issue.
EFF members of the committee rejected the proposals as unworkable and said they “would not turn around the situation where the majority farm workers who had been evicted over the years would see redress and where 40,000 white farm owners remained owning agricultural land.”
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