Close to all land claims settled in Gauteng

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cape Town - Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Joe Phaahla announced today that 99 percent of all land claims lodged in Gauteng have been settled.

He said 95 percent of all land claims in the North West, Northern Cape and the Free State have also been settled.

Phaahla said the Western Cape was left with 553 outstanding claims - most of them in Cape Town and the southern Cape.

KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo had the highest number of outstanding claims.
The department attributed this to the problem of competing claims on the same properties and exorbitant land prices especially for land under cane and forestry.

However, Phaahla said government was deeply concerned about the escalating land prices - where land was at times sold for three times its market value. He noted that land prices tended to "skyrocket" as soon as government was the interested party.

He said government shared the view of AgriSA that there was collusion in the land market.

"This is not only confined to land owners, but includes estate agents, valuers and corrupt government officials," he said, adding that there was a need for all involved in the sector to cooperate and root out these practices as they had the potential to effect the country's stability.

He said over the years "several" government officials had been charged in this regard.

He said the department found itself "in a fix" when prices were raised and pointed out that the model of acquisition was the problem.

But he cautioned that the government would not abandon its willing buyer, willing seller model, adding that the department was "looking at very creative ways without tampering with the constitution".

When it came to land redistribution just 5 percent of land had been moved into black hands and Phaahla said government was "unlikely" to reach its target of 30 percent by 2014, especially as the National Treasury had forecast that the country would run a deficit this year. But he cautioned that government had not taken any decision to move away from the target.

The department was finalising a post-settlement support programme for land reform beneficiaries which would include mentorship and help with mechanisation. An amount of R300 million had been set aside for the programme. He said current support to beneficiaries had not been sufficient.

He said the department together with the ministries of finance, agriculture, forestry and fisheries were in talks to explore ways to assist about 400 farmers indebted to the Land Bank. The outcome of the discussions would be announced soon, he said.

The department had placed a moratorium on the implementation of the Farmworker Equity Scheme in May and Phaalha said only nine of the 88 projects had declared dividends since 1994.

He said in the Western Cape where several projects had already been approved when the moratorium was put in place the department had carried out due diligence reports to determine the viability and sustainability of the ventures before making payments.