Native Land Act must benefit Khoi, San communities

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pretoria - The direct descendants of the Khoi and San communities must benefit from the new cut-off date for lodging a land claim as part of reversing the legacy of the 1913 Native Land Act.

Speaking at the New Age Business briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said the Khoi and San people were the first lines of defending the land when the country was invaded by colonialists.

“We could not as a democratic government, understanding our history be happy and satisfied when some of us were not catered for and I think it was not a deliberate exclusion, but it was more of a systematic exclusion.

“The Khoi and San were left out of the process even though they were the first to be dispossessed of their ancestral land before the notorious 1913 Native Land Act was passed so now is time for us to go back and go beyond the cut-off date of 1913,” he said.

According to the minister, government will be focusing on three areas which include the Khoi and San, heritage sites, historical land marks.

Asked how government is intending to redress the Khoi and San, Nkwinti said his department will be setting up a National Reference Group, with five representatives from each province who will meet with his department regularly.

“We’ve agreed that each province should nominate five representatives, that makes 45 in total, so that we will then discuss in terms of the Constitution and the 1913 cut–off date on how do we come up with a set of proposals to government which will then open up for the Khoi and San to make their own claim.

“This work has already started and we hope that when we come back we will be able to give you a report on the National Reference Group,” he said. 

This year - 2013 - marks a century since the passing of the notorious Native Land Act by the Union Parliament in 1913.

The Act, passed on 19 June, helped to lay the groundwork for the apartheid policy of racial segregation in South Africa.

Former Land Affairs Director-General, Prof Gilindwe Mayende, who was also at the briefing, said land reform in South Africa was on the positive trajectory.

“As we speak, something in the vicinity of 8 million hectares have been redistributed in the space of 18 years. However, there are quite a number of challenges that seem to continue to bedevil the programme in its entirety,” he said. 

Mayende said: “The first challenge is one which I know the Minister and the Department are working hard to address. It is very expensive and in the vicinity of R30 billion has been spent on both restitution and redistribution of land over the space of time.

“Secondly, we are still struggling to come up with an integrated approach where we don’t only talk of transferring land, but transferring land as well as knowing how to access the market, or a totality of package to beneficiaries that is why we’ve seen many projects not succeeding and which now needs to be recapitalised.”

Prof Mayende said another challenge was that the land reform programme was not linked dynamically to agrarian transformation as well as in the broader sense to rural development.

Asked if the country is following the Zimbabwean land invasion style, Deputy Minister Lechesa Tsenoli said land reform has been moving in a slow pace.

“We’ve not been hearing enough from every stakeholder coming into the space, especially the farmers and property owners, who are themselves our critical stakeholders in helping us avoid the Zimbabwean land invasion situation, so we would like to address them urgently,” he said. 

Government is currently urging South Africans to submit their written comments following the publication of the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill 2013 and the Memorandum on the Objects of the Bill.

The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, 2013, proposes certain amendments to the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 to extend the date for lodging a claim for restitution to 18 June 2018.

The explanatory memorandum of the draft bill indicates that the Restitution of Land Rights Act provides that a claim for the restitution of land must be lodged by no later than 31 December 1998, due to a number of problems experienced in the application of the restitution programme.

The evaluation indicated that the programme had been thwarted by a number of limitations, which resulted in various categories of persons, and communities whose rights in land were taken as a result of colonial and apartheid laws being excluded from the restitution process.

The following three categories were identified as being excluded by the restitution laws and programme; those who could not lodge claims by the cut-off date of 31 December 1998; those dispossessed before 1913 and those dispossessed through betterment planning schemes and not allowed to lodge their claims by the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR). -