Land claims on track in Free State, N Cape

Most of the land claims in the Free State and Northern Cape are on schedule to make the cut-off date in March next year, newly appointed regional commissioner Sidney Hlongwane said on Tuesday.

He said at least 90% of claims lodged at the two provincial offices have been settled. “It should be noted that according to our schedule we are indeed on par in settling all claims before the date as per presidential directive.”

In the Free State 182 claims are still outstanding, and 465 in the Northern Cape.

Hlongwane said most of these claims are “rural and complicated” in nature and his office faces various challenges in dealing with them. Among these are protracted negotiations with current land owners, untraceable claimants, and community and family disputes.

He said plans are in place to settle all the outstanding claims within the next seven months.

These plans include the batching of claims, which means claims with similar circumstances of dispossession will be grouped together and dealt with together; increasing office capacity; and the “parallel implementation” of certain restitution processes.

Hlongwane said there are no immediate plans in the two provinces to expropriate land, although the option still exists. “We have no claims targeted for expropriation at the current time. Negotiations in all claims are going well.”

Regarding earlier problems with the Pniel claim near Barkley West in the Northern Cape, Hlongwane said the court-appointed referee has to report back to court by the end of October.

The Northern Cape High Court earlier appointed a referee to negotiate various disputes among the Pniel claimants, their representative committee and the land-claims commission to finalise the country’s first successful land-expropriation exercise.

In regard to the Lohatla (army training area) claim, Hlongwane said the government has already bought six farms to resettle these claimants on alternative land in the Northern Cape. “The original land is not restorable.”

The commission is looking for about 85 000ha to settle this claim.

“We are busy buying a further six farms which was negotiated,” said Hlongwane.—Sapa

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