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Some good news for landowners

Durban – The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has been allocated a budget of close to R600 million to help them in settling or restoring land claims, including from former Block AK and Cato Manor landowners who had been affected by the 1913 Natives Land Act.

The department’s target for the 2013/14 financial year would be to settle or finalise 78 land claims across the province in line with the current budget, announced at their financial year-end media press meeting recently.

The Regional Land Claim Commission has exceeded expectations on land acquisition and financial compensation in the 2012/2013 financial year, by spending 154 percent beyond the allocated budget with a combined land reform of 1.1.million hectares (ha).

Kemraj Ramballi, who was part of the Block AK committee and now the director of National Rural Youth Services Corps, said that in their new financial year they would try to settle as many claims as possible.

“In terms of outstanding claims, various suburbs are affected. Negotiations are still under way with the committee and eThekwini Municipality for claimants who have opted for land restoration in the Block AK vicinity. Many Block AK claims have been settled financially,” he said.

Ramballi said that they were looking for alternative land, of the same value, for claimants who have opted for land restoration.

The department is negotiating with the municipality to buy vacant land in the Block AK precinct as part of the broader development of the area.

The department’s chief director of land restitution support, advocate Bheki Mbili, said ground work had been covered.

“We have started speaking to a university’s humanities and social science faculty to assist us in speeding up the application research process,” he said.

Mbili said in the previous financial year they were allocated R534m and a further R266m to settle land claims.

He said the second allocation of money assisted them in speeding up the process. Mbili hopes more money would become available so that more claims could be processed.

The commission is also attempting to reopen the lodgement process which could help speed up land claims. The lodgement process has not been reopened since 1998.

Former eThekwini councillor, Yacoob Baig, who is assisting land claimants for Block AK, said any further delays were unacceptable. He said that many of the original claimants had passed away while waiting for a settlement.

“The process needs to be expedited. I intend meeting with department officials with a view to addressing this matter,” he said.

Baig said that if certain policies changed there would be a flood of claims which would create more backlogs.

“They need to override adequate provisions in the Land Claim Act. There are several measures to address these issues,” he said.

Buddy Govender, who was actively involved in his family’s claim for compensation for a piece of land they owned in Kent Road, said the amount they received was not at market value.

In 2012/13, the cost of land claims ranged from R1m to R55m. The Cavendish community claimants in Chatsworth were awarded R6m. During this period, 118 claims – totalling R8.9m – were finalised. The total number of rural and urban outstanding claims was 746.

In 2012, nearly 14 000 claims were settled while 37 533 households were financially compensated. This totalled R1.7bn.

In land development, the number of settled claims stood at nearly 3 000, while just more than 760 000ha of land was restored. This amounted to R5-billion. In the eThekwini Municipality area, 9 708 claims were lodged.

Acting department chief director, Bonginkosi Zulu, said their focus was to reverse the legacy of the 1913 Land Act as per their department mandate.

“It is also about economic transformation. Since the passing of this outrageous law, people are still suffering. The intention is to create social cohesion and development,” he said.

Zulu said their department had redistributed 497 371ha of land to 73 771 beneficiaries.

Source Zainul Aberdeen (Daily News IOL)

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