Who’s footing the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill?

March 17th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT


Clare van Zwieten

Clare van Zwieten

After a heated debate in parliament on 25 February 2014, the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill [B35 – 2013] (s76) was approved by the National Assembly and referred for concurrence to the Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The committee is scheduled to hold a final mandates meeting on the Bill on 25 March 2014, and the NCOP then winds up its first term on 28 March 2014. Based on this information it appears unlikely that the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill will be finalised before 13 March when parliament goes into recess until after the elections.

The Bill, which amends the Restitution of Land Rights Act (1994), proposes to re-open the date for lodging claims for restitution for a five-year period until 31 December 2018. It aims to promote the effective implementation of the Act and provides for the simplification of the appointment process for judges to the Land Claims Court. It also prescribes new offences should a person unlawfully prevent a claimant from gaining his or her rights from this Act or should someone lodge a claim with the intention of defrauding the state.

Public consultations on the Bill have been held across the country since November 2013 to allow interested persons and stakeholders to make comments and inputs on the reopening of the land claims process that closed in December 1998. The varied range of interested parties that made submissions to the Rural Development and Land Reform parliamentary committee is testimony to the emotions that the land issue raises in the hearts of South Africans. In the run-up to the elections, the ANC-led government has been accused by its political opponents of using the Bill to drum up support for the ANC at the polls.

Whether the Bill is enacted before or after the elections is somewhat moot though. Budget is the biggest issue in the land claims process, and the more important question is who is going to foot the bill.

Since the inception of the restitution programme, the DRDLR has settled a total of 77 334 claims at a total cost of R16-billion, averaging R206 894 per claim. Of these claims, 71 292 were for financial compensation worth R6-billion.The Regulatory Impact Assessment prepared by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) in July 2013 estimates that an additional 397 000 valid claims will be lodged as a result of the re-opening of the claims process and that it will cost R129- to R179-billion depending on the settlement option selected by claimants if these claims are settled within 15 years.

DRDLR representatives assured the parliamentary committee in February that National Treasury was consulted prior to referral of the Bill to parliament, and that funding would be made available. However, Pravin Gordhan has only allocated R8,7-billion for land restitution claims in his 2014 budget.

This allocation is a mere drop in the ocean when measured against the projected costs of R129- to R179-billion to deal with the new claims that are expected to be lodged. There is also not going to be much of the R8,7-billion to spread around when taking into account the R1,1-billion the DRDLR paid out for the acquisition of the 13 184 hectare Mala Mala Game Reserve late last year.

So, where is the money going to come from?

Send your comments to: positionit@ee.co.za

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