Land restitution to be faster, stricter, says Deputy Minister

Thursday, February 28, 2013

By Mandla Khoza

Mbombela – While land restitution will be faster than before, it will be a stricter process, says Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Lechesa Tsenoli.

Tsenoli was speaking in Mbombela on Thursday following a visit to Mpumalanga to commemorate 100 years since the Natives Land Act of 1913 was brought into effect. The centenary will be marked in June later this year.

“We are signing a memorandum of understanding with the Human Sciences Research Council. This is for bettering the system by making it accurate and much faster than it has been. Part of the previous problems were that the claims were done by courts, which took time with no proper charges and few judges who would deal with such; so we will now see the process being fast-tracked and people getting their claims processed fast,” he explained.

The deputy minister warned that illegitimate land claims would be investigated and wrongdoers arrested and charged.

“We don't want people to take chances when the process reopens because as we speak the Hawks and Special Investigation Unit are investigating non-legitimate claims that saw people getting land through lies in the previous opening,” said Tsenoli.

Tsenoli said as many farms fell apart soon after being returned to their previous owners, the department has initiated a recapitalisation programme to ensure the sustainability of claimed land.

“In 2010 the department started the recapitalisation programme and we have trained a number of rural farmers a number of whom are doing well in their businesses. Some even export their products.

“As the department we mostly encourage farmers to [diversify] farming instead of farming one product. We also want to partner with professional farmers who wish to help train farmworkers who are claimants at some farms,” said Tsenoli.

The deputy minister added that land claimants will be given a handbook about the new process.

“We all know that claiming needs evidence, some documented and some verbal with supporting evidence either by people or important events at places. Claimants are going to be handed handbooks which outline requirements of claiming land,” said Tsenoli.

The deputy minister’s visit ended with a tour to the Mbuyane Project in White River, a successful land reform farm in Mpumalanga. –