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Land claims hurdles remain: SAHRC

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Problems with the land restitution process have not been fully solved and risk undermining the new five-year claim period, the SA Human Rights Commission said on Monday.

These included poor research capacity, delays caused by competing claims, incomplete cadastral surveys, and problems in calculating the value of land, the commission said in a report titled “Systematic Challenges Affecting the Land Restitution Process in SA”.

“The commission remains concerned that these systemic challenges and gaps remain unresolved, and that, although the number of outstanding claims is not reliable… thousands of people have been waiting for almost two decades to have their matters dealt with.”

The land reform and rural development department estimated that 397,000 land claims could be lodged during the second claim phase, which opened on June 30. It faced a backlog of more than 8000 from the first phase.

Minister Gugile Nkwinti has pledged to process existing and new claims simultaneously, and enlist research capacity from academic institutions to facilitate the new claim period, which ends in mid-2019.

He said earlier this year that new claims would be captured electronically to prevent a repeat of past problems with lost information.

“We will do [them] simultaneously, but we will prioritise the 1998 claims for payment. We will pay any claim that is ready for payment, irrespective of when it was lodged,” he said.

The commission said the ministry had taken into account some of the concerns it had raised, because it was given insight into its findings before the report was completed.

It listed a shortage of funding as one of enduring problems slowing land restitution, likely to be exacerbated by sluggish economic growth.

“The funding allocations for the settlement of claims have always limited the number of claims that can be attended to each financial year,” it said.

Nkwinti has confirmed that the money to settle new claims will come from the state coffers and chief land claims commissioner Nomfundo Gobodo has estimated that R129-billion to R179-billion could be required to settle the claims within a 15-year period.

This is equivalent to between R8.6-billion and R11.9-billion a year.

The SAHCR also said it believed the Commission for Restitution of Land Rights was not functioning optimally. SAPA

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