Landless communities go to ConCourt

Civil society organisations will head to the Constitutional Court in Braamfontein on Tuesday 16th February 2016, to challenge the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014, which reopened the land restitution process for another five years.

Fifty (50) communities will hold a night vigil at the Constitutional Court to voice their disapproval of the timing of the new process which they say will disadvantage over 8257 previous claimants whose cases were lodged during the initial process but have still not been settled.

Land rights organisations, the Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA), the Association for Rural Advancement, Nkunzi Development Association, the Communal Property associations of Moddervlei, Maluleke Communal Property Association and Popela will represent these communities in court assisted by lawyers from the Legal Resources Centre and Webber Wentzel.

“Allowing claimants who had missed the initial window period to access the restitution process is to be welcomed. However, the outstanding claims (8257) that were lodged during the initial period must still be finalised. These existing claims will be affected by the new influx of restitution claims. The issue is that the Act fails to give clear guidance on how to deal with new claims that may clash or affect pending or unresolved existing claims,” the organisations said in a statement.

The Act aims to restore land back to communities which lost their land as a direct result of the 1913 Native Land Act which left many black people displaced from their properties through forced removals. But the communities say the Act is unconstitutional and vague, and also that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) did not take reasonable steps to facilitate public participation.

New claims deadline – 30 June 2019

The communities (applicants) want the claims to be finalised as soon as possible as many of the claimants are elderly and some already passed on waiting for their land. They also want the Act to be declared invalid and that old order claims be ring-fenced pending the outcomes of challenged legislation.

Government reopened its land claims process, in 2014, allowing people, who missed an earlier deadline for lodging claims for compensation, to do so within the next five years. President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, which reopens the restitution claims process that closed at the end of 1998 and gives claimants five years – until 30 June 2019 – to lodge further claims. More than a 120 000 new submissions has since been received by December 2015.

For more information, contact Ms Constance Mogale at: 011 614 0359

Author: Intsika

Gwatyu is a former editor of Farming SA and parliamentary reporter for Landbouweekblad (the leading agricultural publication in South Africa). He has more than ten years of media experience, most of which are in the agricultural sector. He completed several local and international media courses, including a media management course from the University of Stellenbosch, 3-year National Diploma in Languages (CPUT) and a fellowship in entrepreneurship on agricultural communication at the Oklahoma State University in 2014. He continues to be involved in agricultural media and communication activities in South Africa and the continent.

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