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South Africa: Zuma extends land restitution claims process

July 1, 2014

Crystal Orderson* jacobzumax0South African President Jacob Zuma has signed into law a bill that re-opens the land restitution claims process that closed in 1998. The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment gives claimants up to June 30, 2019 to lodge land claims with the government. We have been bending over backwards as black people, particularly African people There has been debate that the 80 000 land restitution claims lodged by the 1998 deadline did not reflect the actual number of victims of the apartheid era forced removals. Land reform remains an emotive debate in South Africa with ctivists decrying the slow pace of land reform in the country with ownership still skewed in favour of whites. But the country has been very careful not to follow the Zimbabwe style land invasions and opted for the willing buyer willing seller model. Activists, however, say the willing buyer willing seller model, which sees the State buying land at market related prices, has failed to address land ownership patterns. Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj said that the Act now provides for the re-opening of the process of land claims by those who missed the 31 December 1998 deadline to lodge land claims. He added: “the regulation of the appointment, tenure of office, remuneration and the terms of and conditions of service of the judges of the Land Claims Court has also been amended”. Earlier this month, in a bid to address the land issue, the Land Affairs Ministry announced a new land reform proposal involving giving 50 percent of land to farmworkers. The policy paper on land reform and restitution, finalised in February and titled “Strengthening the Relative Rights of People Working the Land”, has sparked alarm and uncertainty among farmers. The document proposes that farm labourers assume ownership of half the land on which they are employed. This would be “proportional to their contribution to the development of the land, based on the number of years they had worked on the land”. The proposal has been rejected by organised agricultural bodies and described as “ill-considered” by Agri SA, one of the largest farmers ‘ unions. The commercial farmers’ group said the proposal by Rural Development and Land Reform minister Gugile Nkwinti ‘contained elements of what had happened in Zimbabwe’. But the minister hit back saying: “We have been bending over backwards as black people, particularly African people… It is time that all of us took responsibility for progress… for South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. According to the proposals — with a deadline for feedback of April next year — government “will pay for the 50 percent to be shared by the labourers”.

*Source Africa Report
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