Rage as ConCourt ruling freezes land claims

Gugulethu residents came out in numbers to listen to the Rural Development and Land Reform Department about their land claims but left disappointed on Thursday October 20.

The decision by the Constitutional Court to freeze land claims until a new bill has been passed has left some Gugulethu residents in shock.

At the land claim feedback meeting by the Rural Development and Land Reform Department, at the Gugulethu Sports Complex, on Thursday October 20, residents were told that there could be no more claims until further notice.

Hundreds of residents who attended the meeting were left shaking their heads in disbelief, while some left the packed hall in anger. Those who remained and spoke to Vukani could not hide their disappointment.

Deputy Land Claims Commissioner Thami Mdontswa, who took about 20 minutes to explain why the claims were frozen, had just sat down when many people left. He was accompanied by parliamentarians and the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mcebisi Skwatsha.

He said land claims worth hundreds of millions of rands lodged in the province since 2014 have been put on hold following the ruling.

He said the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014 reopened the land claims process from July 1, 2014 to June 30 2019 after the first phase for land claims closed in 1998.

He said in February 2016, the Constitutional Court heard a case on the validity of Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act, No 15 of 2014, which among others reopened the lodgement of new land claims for five years calculating from July 1, 2014 to June 30 2019.

“The application was brought by the Land Access Movement of South Africa, Association for Rural Advancement, Nkunzi Development Association and three Communal Property Associations.

The application alleged that the National Council of Provinces and the Provincial Legislatures failed to comply with the duty to facilitate public participation in terms of section 72 (1)(a) and section 118(1)(a) of the Constitution when they processed the amendment,” said Mr Skwatsha.

He said on July 28, 2016 the court handed down its judgment which declared that Parliament failed to satisfy its obligation to facilitate public involvement in accordance with Section 72 (1)(a) of the Constitution, effectively putting a stop to new land claims and discontinuing those claims submitted after July 2014. “We do not accept claims now. We have been given two years to draft another bill. Those who have not made claims should not do so until we say so. We were interdicted to start with the 1998 claimants. We now need to deal with 1998,” he said to the frustrated residents.

He said at the time of the ruling, 88500 claims had been lodged from 1994 to 1998.

His comments were confirmed by the deputy director of the lodgement centre, Xolela Bathembu who confirmed that of the 88500, 7267 has been settled. “But 1000 is nowhere to be found. Those are people that have probably changed their contact numbers and their houses. We have tried to get them but zilch. And the Luyolo claim is with us but it has been frozen,” he said.

Mr Skwatsha appealed to residents not to be fooled by criminals who claimed to be from the department and end up taking money from people. He said the claims are lodged with, and processed by, the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights but those have been stopped now.

“We are here to advise and give them first hand information. We hope they have listened to us not to use bogus people. We will come back to them when things are right again,” he said.

The news did not go down well with many people at the meeting while some seemed to accept it. Fezile Mali said he was happy that the government came to update them while Thobeka Sono felt it was a disgrace that people were not given their monetary settlements. Ms Sono said she had been paid R20 000 but she felt it was an insult to the people of Gugulethu. She said she went to the meeting expecting something better.