Land claims warn­ing

Don’t pay bribes, warns KZN chief di­rec­tor for land resti­tu­tion

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - NOKUTHULA NTULI

KWAZULU­NATAL’s chief di­rec­tor for resti­tu­tion sup­port, Ad­vo­cate Bheki Mbili, has cau­tioned peo­ple not to fall prey to crim­i­nals who want to swin­dle them with empty prom­ises of help­ing with a land claim.

Mbili said the re­cent hype around the news of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion has made the resti­tu­tion pro­gramme a tar­get for crim­i­nals.

This comes af­ter the ANC’s en­dorse­ment of land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion dur­ing its na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber.

The pro­vin­cial Land Claims Com­mis­sion has spent more than R7 bil­lion on buy­ing ap­prox­i­mately 800 000 hectares land for suc­cess­ful claimants and paid over R2 bil­lion in fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion for suc­cess­ful claims lodged be­fore De­cem­ber 1998.

“We are gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees and the ser­vices of the com­mis­sion are free. It’s re­ally sad that we have to get re­ports that un­sus­pect­ing in­di­vid­u­als are be­ing robbed of their money by un­scrupu­lous crim­i­nals.

“But one must has­ten to add that we also get re­ports that peo­ple are be­ing asked to pay bribes to be part of the claims that they were pre­vi­ously not part of.”

Mbili said un­for­tu­nately some peo­ple are not aware that the ANC’s land with­out com­pen­sa­tion pol­icy has not yet been leg­is­lated and the land claims process has also not been re­opened.

“The gov­ern­ment pol­icy still says that when we want to re­store land, we must pay for it. Land with­out com­pen­sa­tion is not yet gov­ern­ment pol­icy,” he said.

Mean­while, the pro­vin­cial land com­mis­sion only has 1 900 out­stand­ing claims of the more than 16 000 lodged be­fore the De­cem­ber 1998 dead­line. Mbili said while they are proud of the progress made, they are now look­ing to finalise the re­main­ing claims more quickly.

He said one of the chal­lenges is re­search­ing the claims, so the com­mis­sion has out­sourced those ser­vices, be­cause they do not have ca­pac­ity to deal with them with­out caus­ing fur­ther de­lays.

“The ex­ter­nal ser­vice providers help us ver­ify the claims. This helps KZN chief di­rec­tor for resti­tu­tion sup­port Ad­vo­cate Bheki Mbili. a lot be­cause not all the claims that have been lodged are valid and re­search­ing the in­di­vid­ual claims’ va­lid­ity takes a long time,” he said.

He said hav­ing ad­di­tional help has helped in ad­just­ing their tar­gets up­wards. In the last fi­nan­cial year, the tar­get was set­tling 110 claims, this year it is 160 and next year it is 300 claims that must be set­tled.

“We an­tic­i­pate that all the claimants will know by no later than the end of this year whether their claims are suc­cess­ful or not. The only thing that will be out­stand­ing is fi­nal­is­ing the set­tle­ment.

“Be­cause re­mem­ber, in as much as claimants have rights, in­ter­ested par­ties, in­clud­ing the cur­rent land own­ers, they’ve got rights in terms of rais­ing their ob­jec­tions to the va­lid­ity of the claims,” Mbili ex­plained.

He said some of the de­lays in set­tling the claims were due to some mat­ters hav­ing be­ing re­ferred to the Land Claims Court for var­i­ous rea­sons. The prov­ince cur­rently has more than 90 mat­ters be­fore the court.

“It’s not all of the 90 claims will be ad­ju­di­cated by the court. Lit­i­gants have a ten­dency of dis­agree­ing while they are out­side court but when they get to court they then see the need to find one an­other on the is­sues that are at the cen­tre of their dis­agree­ment,” said Mbili.

He said the biggest con­cern for the com­mis­sion was en­sur­ing that agri­cul­tural land con­tin­ues to be pro­duc­tive post­set­tle­ment.

He said gov­ern­ment was pro­vid­ing de­vel­op­men­tal sup­port to the claimants be­cause they did not want to see the farms fail­ing. Sup­port is also pro­vided, through var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, for claimants who are in­ter­ested in other com­mu­nity so­cio­eco­nomic pro­grammes that seek to de­velop non­agri­cul­tural land.

“When we set­tle land claims, claimants are given an op­por­tu­nity to in­di­cate what form of re­dress they re­quire.

“They have to choose be­tween land restora­tion or fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion be­cause not ev­ery­one wants to work the land,” said Mbili.

The sad re­al­ity, ac­cord­ing to Mbili, is that some claimants start fight­ing amongst them­selves post­set­tle­ment, mostly over funds for the com­mu­nity projects.

“Be­cause of the in­vest­ment that we make in th­ese set­tle­ments, we find it dif­fi­cult to just turn a blind eye so we try and me­di­ate in the in­tra­com­mu­nity dis­putes, be­cause when they hap­pen the ca­su­alty is the land that we have re­stored,” he said.

Mbili said some­times the claimants pre­vent the com­mis­sion from in­ter­ven­ing in post­set­tle­ment prob­lems by get­ting a court in­ter­dict.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

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