From the news desk

Land claims centre open

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The provincial land claims commissioner in the Western Cape, Michael Worsnip, has hailed the reopening of the land claims process, saying the decision was based on the massive numbers who were excluded as a result of the previous cut off date. President Jacob Zuma last week signed into law the Restitution of Land rights Amendment bill.

Following what has been hailed as an historic milestone in the restitution process, Minister of Rural development and land reform, Gugile Nkwinti, announced the land claims process would be reopened until 2019.

Dispelling the fears of a number of restitution claimants, Worsnip noted those who had previously submitted claims before the first cut-off date would not be required to resubmit, as those claims were now being dealt with as a priority.

“We are going to deal with those claims first, before we deal with any claims that are going to be submitted now. People must feel completely confident, as we’ve only got slightly over 1000 claims left, and we are going to finish those first,” he explained.

Worsnip said it was vital for those seeking to lodge a claim within the new process, to be certain whether their claims were valid or not. He said anyone caught submitting fraudulent claims knowingly, would be prosecuted, and would likely face jail time.

“People must be very clear about the fact that it is a criminal offence to lodge a claim fraudulently. If you know that you didn’t have a claim, but thought you could take a chance, you could end up in jail,” he said.

Those who had previously accepted a payout from government regarding their claim would be illegible for further compensation. This was irrespective of whether the payout was a fair reflection of the properties value or not.

Under the new process, claimants will be required to be in possession of certain documentation when lodging a claim. This includes a certified copy of their ID, as well as a signed letter authorising the person to act on behalf of their family. The letter must be accompanied by a list of all the family members the claimant is representing.

If a claimant is the executor of an estate, a letter is needed from the master of the high court. If a claim is being lodged on behalf of a community, a written decision from a meeting is required, signed by the facilitator of that meeting. Lastly all claimants are required to provide proof, tying them to the land they are claiming.

“You could have a book which lists you paying rent every month, or you could have a school report card which shows that was your address. You could even have wedding pictures, showing you outside the address,” explained Worsnip.

Also required are the particulars of the person dispossessed, as well as of the claimants themselves. A description of the property is also needed, along with information on the organ of state that did the dispossessing, and the year and history the dispossession.

With regards to restitution claims by the Khoisan communities, Worsnip said any applications would be accept as long as they involving land dispossessions that took place after the 1913 land act.

“We are not yet at a point where we have legislation that enables us to deal with claims prior to 1913. That is being discussed at the moment and policy is being made around the Khoi and the San communities,” he said.

All new claims are to be lodged at the Van De Sterr building in Rhodes Avenue, Mowbray, along with the appropriate documentation. Older claimants can handle their ongoing claims at the department’s offices at 14 Long Street, in the CBD.

For more information or assistance, contact the departments restitution helpline at 0800 007 095. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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