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The DA welcomes the decision by the Pretoria High Court granting the Southern Africa Agricultural Initiative (Saai) access to information on land claims in South Africa listed in the Government Gazette between 1998 and 2021.
This is a victory, not only for land restitution claimants who have been left in the lurch for decades due to unsettled claims but also for the farming community who have been unable to develop or sell their farms due to uncertainties brought about by outstanding claims.
The DA has been fighting for the release of the land restitution claims database since 2021 but our efforts have been stonewalled by the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform (DALRRD). On 15 June 2021, we submitted a PAIA application to (DALRRD) requesting records of all land restitution claims lodged with the Department. The application was ignored despite repeat appeals lodged to force the Department to act on it.
My former colleague, Annette Steyn, undertook an oversight visit to DALRRD head office in Pretoria to try and take a look at the land administration database, records of lease agreements and the database of all Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) farms. Departmental officials flatly refused to let her into the building or to entertain her request despite the fact that she was a Member of Parliament with full oversight responsibilities.
The unrelenting pressure from the DA to obtain access to the land restitution claims database took a curious turn when the then Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise, went to extreme lengths to try and shield Minister Thoko Didiza from accountability. In an unprecedented act of overreach, Modise sent the DA a letter in which she erroneously attempted to dissuade the DA from conducting oversight at the DALRRD head office.
The ANC government’s chaotic handling of the land reform process in South Africa, as reflected in the chaotic land administration systems, is a national shame. We are nonetheless encouraged by the positive outcome in the Saai court case, which will now expose how the ANC has badly managed the land restitution process since 1998.
Issued by Thandeka Mbabama MP - DA Deputy Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development