The Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (the Commission), and the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, gave a presentation to and answered questions from the Committee about the petition recently lodged by claimants in the Western Cape, calling for assistance with their land claims. The Commission pointed out that it was not only current and valid claimants who had signed, but the document was also signed by non-claimants, those whose claims had been rejected for non-compliance and a faction group not wishing to be represented by a particular legal entity. Members were given specifics on some of the claims in the various categories outlined. A brief explanation on the process for lodgement and validation of claims was also given, and what steps needed to be followed by claimants. It was pointed out that in certain instances it was possible to apply for condonation of technical irregularities. In the Western Cape, the major challenge was the release of land by government departments and municipalities, and the fact that some municipalities, including City of Cape Town, wished to be paid market-related prices for land. In other cases, claimants rejected the land they were offered and insisted on other property.
The Committee noted that the presentation fell short of Members’ expectations as it did not directly address the allegations made in the petition, which had been forwarded to the Speaker. The Committee would need to submit a full report to the Speaker and was unable to do so on the basis of the information provided thus far. Members asked about what proof claimants would be given when they lodged their claims, what would happen if claims were lost in the offices of the Commission, whether they were given receipts when documents were lodged, and under what circumstances condonation was a possibility. The Committee noted that the petition also complained of long delays, noted that some of the claimants had since died, and enquired what would be done in this instance. Members questioned apparent conflicting information on the Lamberts Bay claims, and asked when the Sozawe claim was likely to be finalised, and how the value would be assessed. Members were also interested in what processes would be followed to try to negotiate over government land, and whether expropriation was not an option, and asked that the policy on payouts must be forwarded t the Committee. Members asked about the possibility of corruption, but this question was not answered. The Commission was asked to compile a fuller written report, and to report again to the Committee on Monday 6 September to speak to the petition and to detail some of the issues in more detail.
The Committee agreed to consider Botswana and Malawi as possible destinations in Africa for a Committee visit.
Western Cape Land Claimants Petition: Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) briefing
A delegation from the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) attended the meeting to brief the Committee on the petition that had been lodged from the Western Cape. She pointed out that the petition was lodged by various categories of people, not only claimants, but also non-claimants, those whose claims were non-compliant claims, and a faction group.
One of those in the non-compliant claims group included Johanna Willemena Johas in Bredasdorp. Her claim was rejected on the basis that the property had been sold before the area had been declared a Group Area. Furthermore the indicated date on the claim for was 1867, hence the restitution requirement had not been met. The faction group represented in the petition was the District Six Action Committee. It was representative of owners who did not wish to be represented by the District Six Beneficiary Trust, which was a legal entity. The individual heading up the Committee, Ms Tania Kleinhans, was yet to provide proof of her mandate. Other persons who had signed the petition that had valid claims. One such person was Mr CJ Driver, whose claim was in Greyton. His claim was at the negotiation stage, but a challenge was land availability in order to settle the claim.
Ms Jansen continued with a brief explanation on the lodgement and validation of claims. The Restitution of Land Rights Act, No 22 of 1994, as amended, and the Rules on the procedure guided the process. The cut-off date for lodgement of claims had been 31 December 1998. Research had to be done in respect of both the validity of a claim and of the beneficiaries. She also provided members with a breakdown of the process, from the lodgement of a claim up until settlement, if the claim was successful. (See attached presentation for full details). Many of the claims that were rejected were rejected because they were non-compliant with the Act and the Rules – for instance, on the basis of racial practices, or missed deadline dates for lodgement. There was provision in the Act for condonation of claims. There could be various reasons for condonation. One such reason could be that the claim was done in the correct manner, but was perhaps handed in at places other than the Commission’s offices, before 31 December 1998.
The Commission also had its challenges. In the Western Cape the biggest challenge was the release of land by government and by municipalities. The City of Cape Town wished to be paid market related prices for land. The City of Cape Town had released land in Constantia, Princess Vlei, Retreat and Milnerton. The Commission was also involved in a court case with Mr William Booth, an attorney, who was representing residents in an area who were opposing a claim being made by other claimants on a public open space.
Ms A Steyn (DA) stated that claimants were concerned that in many instances there was no proof of their claims. People claimed that they had lodged claims but had no proof that they had done so. There were also claimants who were given no reference numbers. Others claimed that when they returned to the Land Claims Office, they were told that their documents were lost. She asked what was actually given as proof when a claim was lodged, and what was in place to assist people if indeed their claims were lost by the Commission.
Ms Jansen said that those lodging claims received letters of acknowledgement of their claims.
The Chairperson asked exactly what form of proof was given when a claim was lodged.
Ms Jansen said that the claim lodgement form was a thick form. Commission officials would fill in the form if a claimant was unable to do so. She conceded that there were instances when forms got lost. Claimants could receive a letter confirming that a claim had been lodged.
The Chairperson asked what if the claimant lost his or her letter or it was destroyed. He also asked what information was held at the Land Claims Office as proof that a claim had been lodged.
Ms Jansen said that a copy of the claim form was on file in the Commission’s database. The identity number of the claimant was sufficient to enable the Commission to track down information. Anything else could be brought forward as proof that a claim had been lodged. Even a Post Office registered letter slip was regarded as good enough proof that a claim had been lodged.
The Chairperson asked how, if any other form of proof besides the letter was brought, a link was established between the supposed proof and the file at the office of the Commission. He enquired how the identity of the claimant and the fact that he or she was the correct claimant was confirmed.
Ms Jansen said that she would have to speak to her legal division to list all the items that were required. She suggested that a copy of this should be forwarded to the Committee. She knew that when an application was condoned, the file could be reconstructed. Validation of the claim still had to be done.
The Chairperson asked for reassurance that the Commissioner would furnish all the information.
Mr Mdu Shabane, Deputy Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, reiterated that a letter was given to claimants as proof of a claim. If the claimant had no proof of a claim having been lodged, or if documents at the office could not be found, the file could be reconstructed if that claimant brought his or her supporting documents in once again. The investigation into the claim would once again be done. He assured the Chairperson that the Department would furnish whatever information that was needed by the Committee.
Ms Steyn noted the reference to the Lamberts Bay Community Claim on page 9 of the presentation. The document stated that there were no challenges regarding the claim, yet there was problems regarding the land claim by the church. She asked what the true state of affairs was, saying that confusing information was presented.
Ms Jansen said that in Lamberts Bay there were two claims. The first was a claim on behalf of the church, and the second was a community claim. The community had chosen to be financially compensated, whereas the church had opted for land. The municipality had offered land to the church but the church was not happy with the offer, as it wanted to have beach front property. The church’s claim had not been settled. The person who had signed the petition, Mr A Schoeman, was a representative of the community, and not of the church. However, she pointed out that the community claim had already been settled, and a payout of R7 million had been made. It was possible that perhaps Mr Schoeman had not as yet received payment. The money had already been budgeted for.
The Chairperson asked how many of the Lamberts Bay Community claimants had been paid. He asked when Ms Jansen would be able to furnish the Committee with the information on Mr Schoeman’s position.
Ms Jansen confirmed that she could furnish the information to the Committee by Monday 6 September 2010.
The Chairperson said that the information needed to be included in the Committee Report to the Speaker.
Ms Steyn referred to page 11 of the presentation, regarding the valid claim of Ester Sozawe in Kensington, and said that she was concerned about the cost of the settlement of the claim. The amount was to be determined at settlement. She asked what the current status of this claim was.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila also noted that the Sozawe claim, mentioned on page 11 of the presentation, was apparently on a priority list, and asked whether this claim was likely to be paid in the current financial year.
The Chairperson also asked about the Sozawe claim, noting that the cost would be determined “by settlement” and asked who would make that final determination on the amount.
Ms Jansen said that as far as payouts were concerned there was a standard settlement offer. A formula was used to work out the amounts. If the claimant did not accept the offer, a historical valuation could be done. In the event that the claimant was a tenant, then the payout would be equivalent to the housing subsidy amount at that time. If the housing subsidy increased then the amount paid would also increase. She reiterated that the determinations were done in terms of a policy.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) referred to the financial compensation option, and asked how the amount was determined, whether by the current value of the land or was it a fixed amount.
Mr Shabane said that payout amounts were linked to market related questions. It was a challenge to spend huge sums of money on payouts.
The Chairperson asked that the policy be forwarded to the Committee.
Ms Steyn asked for further elaboration on condonation of claims, and asked what the possibility was of fraud in the process.
Ms Jansen said that the condonation was basically related to an application to investigate the claim.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) referred to municipalities charging market related prices for land, and asked if the Department had any powers to get around the issue.
Dr Joe Phaahla, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, stated that where a municipality demanded market value for land, the preferred route was to negotiate. It was a moot point whether expropriation could be done. It all depended on the interpretation of the law.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked whether a claimant would be informed by the Commission when his or her claim was rejected. She also questioned why, if a claim had been rejected, a person would sign the petition.
Mr Shabane said that it was common practice, where claims were rejected, that the claimants would still sign petitions. People continued to be aggrieved. He confirmed again that claimants were informed in writing that their claims were rejected, and were also given the reasons.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) asked what other recourse was available to claimants who had not submitted claims by 1998, and who had had their later claims rejected. She asked how engagement could take place around the issue of municipalities selling land to government.
Mr Shabane said that the Act provided that if claims had been lodged that had not met the criteria for restoration, then the Commissioner could make a recommendation to the Minister suggesting alternative forms of settlement of that particular claim.
The Chairperson explained that the Committee needed to provide a report to the Speaker of Parliament. The petitioners had asked the Speaker for assistance. If the responses given by the CRLR were not adequate, then the Committee would have to insist on the Commission appearing before the Committee again. He said that the responses by the Commission need to be clearer. It was possible that the Speaker might wish to respond in writing to the petitioners.
Ms Steyn pointed out that the presentation document as a whole was confusing. The answers that Members needed were not apparent at first glance. She asked that the CRLR should look at the document again.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Steyn. It would not be possible for the Committee to tell the Speaker about specific cases when investigations were still to be completed. The object of the exercise had been that the CRLR should give the Committee an idea of the finalisation and settlement of claims. The Committee still had no idea when claims were to be finalised and by whom. He asked the Commission to give the Committee a fuller report on Monday 6 September 2010. Members also needed a cleaner version of the presentation. The Committee did not have much time, as Parliament was going on recess on 17 September 2010.
Ms Steyn suggested that the Commission should look at the actual complaints or allegations made by the petitioners.
Ms Jansen said that it was difficult to speak to the allegations. A number of those allegations were not proven. If allegations were proven, then facts would have to be obtained.
The Chairperson said that allegations were also made that there were huge delays in the processing of claims. These delays were so long that some claimants had already passed away. He felt that the response by Ms Jansen was not reasonable. He asked if the Commission would prefer that the families of the deceased persons forwarded the names of the deceased to the Commission, although he was not suggesting that the claims of deceased persons or of those experiencing long delays necessarily had any basis.
Deputy Minister Phaahle said that the Commissioner had to explain what the reasons for delays were, where claimants had passed away. He stated that there were procedures in law. There was also a cession process. Firstly the cause of the delay needed to be looked at, and thereafter a remedy would need to be considered, and in the case of deceased claimants, there would be cession of claims to the heirs.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Commission needed to respond in writing to the allegations, and pointed out that the current presentation seemed to be based more upon information from the files of the Commission than on responding to the allegations in the petition.
National Climate Change Workshop
The Committee was briefed on a National Climate Change Workshop that was to be hosted on Thursday 2 September 2010 and Friday 3 September 2010. Members of Parliament, departments and university academics would be attending the workshop.
Committee visit to African countries
Members suggested that Botswana and Malawi were the best options for the proposed visits to other African countries. The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to note the choices.
The meeting was adjourned.
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