The Commission on Restitution and Land Rights (CRLR) seeks to provide equitable redress to victims of racially motivated land dispossession, in line with the provisions of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act No. 22 of 1994). The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, 2014 (Act 15 of 2014) extends (reopens) the lodgement of land claims for a period of five years, calculated from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019. New claims were being lodged through an electronic system in 14 lodgement sites, and in mobile lodgement offices. Information provided by a claimant was captured, and supporting documentation was scanned and filed in the system. A printout of the completed electronic form was signed by the claimant and filed in a hard copy file. An automated acknowledgement of receipt of the claim is generated by the system with a unique reference number. A text message is forwarded to the claimant, acknowledging receipt of a claim. The lodgement system automatically creates the National Land Restitution Register as required by the Act, and generates reports.
There were 14 operational lodgement sites located in Pretoria, Nelspruit, Witbank, Polokwane, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, East London, Queenstown, Cape Town, George, Pietermaritzburg, Vryheid, Mmabatho, and Vryburg. Plans were in place to increase the number of lodgement sites to 23 by 2015/16, and 52 by 2019. There were four mobile lodgement offices that had been procured and would be deployed to all parts of the country, especially rural areas. The deployment of the lodgement offices would be supported by mobile communication units. The Act requires that the CRLR ensure that priority is given to claims lodged not later than 31 December 1998. The outstanding claims should be settled simultaneously with the new claims, but the new claims should be prioritised for financial payment.
Members were concerned about the quality of research done by the Commission to determine the authenticity of land claims. They also raised the incongruence between information given to the previous Committee, and the one presented to the current Committee. They were unhappy with the concurrent settlement of claims lodged before the cut-off date of 1998, and those lodged from 2014 onwards. A Member of the EFF said that land restitution was the first Act of the democratic government in 1994, and 20 years later the country was still dealing with land restitution, which demonstrated the failure of the ruling party.
The Commission replied that claims lodged before the 1998 cut-off date were being prioritised. An additional 110 posts had been advertised, but the number may increase in needed. Following the amendment of the Act by Parliament, the Commission had prepared as much as it could for the lodgement of claims. The restitution was for people dispossessed of their land, and the amendment of the Act was to serve people who did not have the opportunity to lodge their claims before the 1998 cut-off date. While the aim of the Commission was to restore the right to land, the amendment Act caters only for those dispossessed after 1910. The restitution process can go up to the courts, as there were many disputes that the Commission was unable mediate. It also funded legal assistance to communities should disputes emerge after restitution. The target of the Commission was to ensure that all advertised posts were filled by September
Briefing by the the Commission on Restitution and Land Rights (CRLR)
Ms Nomfundo Gobodo, Chief Land Claims Commissioner, CRLR, said the Commission sought to provide equitable redress to victims of racially motivated land dispossession, in line with the provisions of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act No. 22 of 1994).
The lodging of an appeal is the first process in land restitution, and is followed by:
- Research – a process that involves the investigation of a claim by the Commission, resulting in its acceptance and publication in the government gazette, or dismissal.
- Verification – a process that involves the determination of the households that qualify for restitution.
- Negotiations - a process where the Commission attempts to resolve the claim through negotiation and mediation.
- Settlement / Court - a process where the Commission refers the claim to the Minister for approval of the settlement of claims, or to court for adjudication.
- Implementation - a process where the award made by the court is implemented (acquisition and transfer of land, or payment of financial compensation
The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, 2014 (Act 15 of 2014) extends (reopens) the lodgement of land claims for a period of five years, calculated from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019.
As a control measure, the Act creates two new offences. These are where a person prevents, obstructs or unduly influences a claimant or any other person from pursuing his or her rights provided for in the Restitution Act, and where a person lodges a claim with the intention of defrauding the state
The Act provides for the prioritisation of claims lodged before the 1998 cut-off date, and the establishment of a National Land Restitution Register. New claims were being lodged through an electronic system in 14 lodgement sites (and in mobile lodgement offices). Information provided by a claimant was captured, and supporting documentation was scanned and filed in the system. A print-out of the completed electronic form is signed by the claimant and filed in a hard copy file. An automated acknowledgement of receipt of the claim is generated by the system with a unique reference number. A text message is forwarded to the claimant acknowledging receipt of a claim. The lodgement system automatically creates the National Land Restitution Register (required by the Act), and generates reports.
There were 14 operational lodgement sites located in Pretoria, Nelspruit, Witbank, Polokwane, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, East London, Queenstown, Cape Town, George, Pietermaritzburg, Vryheid, Mmabatho, and Vryburg. Plans were in place to increase the number of lodgement sites to 23 by 2015/16, and 52 by 2019. There were four mobile lodgement offices that had been procured and would be deployed to all parts of the country, especially rural areas. The deployment of the lodgement offices would be supported by mobile communication units
116 posts have been advertised for the lodgement process in the 14 offices. The posts include the following: manager (level 11), project coordinator (level 10), senior project officers (level 8), administration officer (level 7), data capturers (level 6) and record officers (level 5). The existing experienced staff were currently supporting the lodgement process and would train new staff, who will be phased in.
The Act requires that the CRLR ensures priority is given to claims lodged not later than 31 December 1998. The outstanding claims shall be settled simultaneously with the new claims, but the old claims shall be prioritised for payment. As at 31 March 2014, 8 471 land claims were outstanding. As at 11 August 2014, 9 343 claims have been lodged. The highest numbers of claims lodged were in the Western Cape, Gauteng, with Free State and Limpopo experiencing daily increases in volume. The lodgement system was coping with the high volume of lodgements. About 3.5% of the claims lodged were incomplete, with not all the information required provided at lodgement. The CRLR has become aware of many schemes designed to defraud claimants, and these have been reported to the police. Strategic objectives for 2014-19 were the restoration of land rights in order to support land reform and agrarian transformation by 2019, lodgement of restitution land claims reopened for people who did not meet the 1998 deadline, and organisational change management.
Ms A Qikani (ANC) asked how long it would take the CRLR to fill technical posts for the smooth functioning of the Commisson. She asked why the CRLR was simultaneously processing recent claims lodged in 2014, rather than prioritising those lodged before December 1998.
A Member of the Committee asked what funding the Commission had initially requested from National Treasury in the current financial year. He said 7% to 8% of land had been distributed since 1994. He asked about the contribution of the Commission to land redistribution. What were the reasons for financial compensation (to current owners) for stolen land (when they dispossessed people to acquire it)? The aim of the Commission was the equitable distribution of land dispossessed through racially-based land dispossession after 1910 -- what happens when a person claims land that he/she was disposed of before 1910? What was the location of the mobile offices, and were they visible? She asked the reasons for the Commission prioritising later claims for financial compensation. She asked the Commission to come up with the distribution of claims per constituency.
Mr T Walters (DA) asked for the amount of the budget the Commission had requested from National Treasury, and not the budget received. He said land restitution was a complex process and he would like to know the kind of research the Commission was doing to find out the authenticity of a land claim. There was incongruence between the amount to be spent in the budget and the work to be done to expedite the restitution process. The information given to the previous Committee was different from the information given to the current Committee. He asked if the Commission was under-budgeting for the work it needed to do.
Another Member asked about the mechanisms put in place to deal with false claims, and how successful such initiatives were. He said the mobile lodgement centres were highly appreciated, but he wanted to know when they were going to be increased to reach all corners of South Africa. He asked if there were any cases of litigation against the Commission, and whether litigation impacted on its work. He asked what happened if somebody claimed the land before December 1998, and in 2014 somebody else claimed the same piece of land.
Ms Gobodo replied that claims lodged before the 1998 cut-off date were being prioritised. An additional 110 posts had been advertised, but the number may increase if needed. Following the amendment of the Act by Parliament, the Commission had prepared itself as much as it could for the lodgement of claims. It could not prepare for additional posts because there was uncertainty on when Parliament was going to amend the Act. The Commission had then moved quickly, especially with the communication campaign and drafting of a new budget after the amendment.
She said the restitution was for people dispossessed of their land, and the amendment of the Act was to serve those who did not have the opportunity to lodge their claims before the 1998 cut-off date. While the aim of the Commission was to restore the right to land, it did not have money should a person come and lodge a claim that he/she was disposed, say, in 1800 as the amendment Act catered only for those disposed after 1910. The media campaign was started after the amendment of the Act. This was being done through various mediums that included community initiatives and radio stations. Most of their campaigns were in rural areas that had few alternative sources of information.
It was the priority of the CRLR to clear claims lodged before 1998, but the new claims will not be processed the old way, as the Commission has embraced information technology (IT) as part of the changed management approach. However, the old system would be retained, but enhanced through the use of IT, resulting in the electronic lodging of claims and better project management to be able to monitor progress in the processing of claims.
A claim can be a community claim and a community can claim more than one farm. The problem very often was that the Act requires negotiation with every partner involved. However, the community may not agree on a payment plan, or some may not come when expected, others will refuse to negotiate and some will want their land back. The claims that will be processed will be in compliance with the Restitution Act and there was no discrimination on who can lodge a claim, as long as each individual complies with the Act.
The CRLR had ten mobile sites and 14 restitution centres. It will be assessing the implementation of its communication, especially in rural areas. The research done after a claim has been lodged shapes the direction it takes. If there were overlapping rights the matter is taken to court for adjudication.
On the amount requested from Treasury, the CRLR replied that it would find the actual papers submitted to Treasury, but it was in line with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework goals. The calculation of financial compensation was done after research on claims received and the determination of the value of the land and property claimed. The Commission first calculates the historical value of property at the time the people were dispossessed, and then moves to what the value would have become nowadays. The value that it arrives at will then be offered to the claimant.
Mr A Mngxitama (EFF) said it was sad that the Commission staff had forgotten that in 2005, the country had R13 billion to conclude the land restitution process. It was so sad that the Commission was under-funded. The issue of land restitution was the first act of the democratic government in 1994 and 20 years later, the country was still doing land restitution. In 2013, the Commission had given more than R2 billion to one white farmer. There was claiming and counter claiming of people who portrayed themselves as chiefs and kings. On the farms, there was racism, a continuation of apartheid and compensation of white farmers to get back land stolen land. This showed a failure of the ruling party, the ANC. He was not sure whether the other opposition parties, especially the DA, shared the same sentiments. The black people had lost their land through colonialism, and he wanted to know what restitution was doing to redress this anomaly. The job of Parliamentarians, as mandated by the people was oversight, and more than one million voters had mandated the EFF. There were lots of issues that the Commission needed to deal with, despite the limited resources at their disposal. The reopening of the land restitution process must also deal with land redistribution.
The Commission replied that the Act was amended to accommodate the sentiments expressed by the Member, and it was currently focussing on the operationalization of the Act.
The Chairperson urged Members to engage with the presentation only.
A Member of the Committee said a report tabled in the previous term had said that 9 700 claims had been made and settled, but the Commission was showing it had settled only 5 000. He asked how the Commission was going to deal with the unexpected high value of claims. While the language in the meeting was land, land and land, none of the people in South Africa had the time to fully utilise the land for productive agricultural purposes.
He asked how the Commission would deal with issues of overlapping of claims, where a chief claimed land, and individuals the community claimed. The criminal trends in South Africa were so high that land as a source of money was another target of criminals. What was the preparedness of the Commission to deal with criminals? While the Commission was to intensify its communication in favour of rural areas, there were urban areas where people had been dispossessed and white-owned companies located in those areas were continuing to make money at the expense of black communities living in poverty. The main goal of Committee was to set aside party ideologies and work together for all South Africans.
He asked if there was any overlap of duties between the Commission and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. There were rumours that officials colluded with other third parties to the extent that other foreigners now had claims over land in South Africa. This made him doubt the quality of research being done by the Commission. How did the Commission handle such matters and how did they deal with communities who lodged their complaints to the High Court. The laws of disempowerment started in with the 1930 Land Act and the1948 Group Areas Act, but colonialism had started long before that, and disempowerment had already begun..
He asked the Commission to update the Committee on any challenges in the application process. The Commission should indicate the targets it hoped to achieve in 120 days so that the Committee would be able to do oversight.
Ms Gobodo said the Commission did not know how much land and how many people were dispossessed, and was therefore unable to predict the number of claims expected in 120 days. She acknowledged that there were certain things that the Commission still needed to do and it was committed to process all claims received. The restitution process could go up to the courts, as there were lots of disputes that the Commission was unable mediate that had to be sent to court. It also funded legal assistance to communities should a dispute emerge after restitution.
The target of the Commission was to ensure that all advertised posts were filled by September. It had few resources to deal with the demands that it faced. It emphasised that land restitution had nothing to do with land redistribution. There were a number of branches in the Department of Land Reform, one of which was the land redistribution branch which dealt specifically with land redistribution issues, rural development and enterprise development. In the settlement of claims, there was a need to collaborate with other branches.
The Chairperson thanked the Commission for their appearance before the Committee. She said the duty of the Committee was to conduct oversight on issues discussed in Parliament, and the Commission must always come prepared to answer as many questions as possible. She emphasised that it was important for the Commission to come up with indicators on targets, so that the Committee would be able to do oversight on a quarterly basis.
The meeting was adjourned.
- PC Rural: Re-opening of lodgement of land claims: briefing by Commission on Restitution & Land Rights
- PC Rural: Commission on Restitution of Land Rights on the reopening of the lodgement of land claims
- PC Rural: Re-opening of the lodgement of land claims: briefing by Commission on Restitution and Land Rights
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