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SA: Parliament plans extensive public consultation on reopening of land claims

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SA: Parliament plans extensive public consultation on reopening of land claims

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5th October 2017

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In response to a Constitutional Court judgment that nullified the 2014 Restitution of Land Rights Act, citing inadequate public involvement, the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, will conduct a thorough and extensive public consultation process to allow as many as possible South Africans to make inputs on the redrafted Restitution of Land Rights Bill.

The Restitution of Land Rights Bill, which was reintroduced as a Private Members’ Bill by National Assembly Member, Mr Pumzile Justice Mnguni, seeks to reopen the land claims process after the 1998 closing date.

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Mr Mnguni today briefed to Portfolio Committee on the new Bill which he says will be a redress for millions of South Africans who lost land though the notorious 1913 Natives’ Land Act, but failed to lodge land claims before the December 1998 closing date.

“There is huge injustice that is facing us if we do not reopen the lodgement of land claims. In order for justice to be achieved let’s reopen in order for the people who did not claim to participate in the process,” Mr Mnguni told the Committee today.

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Parliament passed the Restitution of Land Rights in 2014 to reopen the lodgement of land claims for a period of five years.

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”.

Mr Mnguni said the 2014 Amendment Act that was nullified by the Constitutional Court had a five-year period for the lodgment of claims, that was going to end in 2019.

At the time of the Constitutional Court judgement, the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights had already received 163 000 land claims and those claims were frozen (could not be processed). In striking down the Amendment Act, the Constitutional Court also protects those claims that were submitted in terms of the nullified Act.

Land restitution in South Africa is a very emotive issue and for the past 23 years the country has been hard at work trying to amicably reverse land dispossessions that happened as a result of the infamous 1913 Natives’ Land Act.

Though significant progress has been achieved, it has emerged that the first phase of restitution had left many deserving citizens outside the land reform programme after the 31 December 1998 deadline for the lodging of claims.

Mnguni estimates that a whopping 7,5 to 8 million claims could still be lodged by scientific estimates.

Citing that a mere 80 000 land claims were lodged by 1998 and a further 163 000 were lodged but “frozen” during the interdicted period from 2014 to 28 July 2016 (date of the Constitutional Court judgment), this means that the sum total of claimants left out stands at about 98 % versus the 2 % that has claimed. The effect of this amendment Bill is that land claims will be reopened.

The Portfolio Committee is planning to conduct countrywide public hearings to give citizens an opportunity to make inputs on the Bill.
 

 

Issued by Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, Pumzile Mnguni

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