Leaders voice concern at pace of land restitution

The manner and speed in which land restitution claims were being processed remained a concern, the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) told President Kgalema Motlanthe on Thursday.

Speaking after a debate in Pretoria on Motlanthe’s State of the Nation Address in February, NHTL chairperson Fhumulani Kutama urged the president to address the way the process was handled.

“The manner in which the Land Claims Commission is running its affairs, we are very much worried about that. It is moving at a total snail’s [pace].”

The president must address this, Kutama said, even if it meant augmenting legislation.

“The president must ... make sure the commission does its work because our communities out there are waiting for their land.”

He said the government appeared to be promoting the paying out of cash instead of handing back the land.

“We are saying that it is against the spirit of the Freedom Charter, which says land shall be given to their owners.

“We are urging the government to say the question of money is not important to us.
What is important is the question of land.”

While not addressing land affairs directly, Motlanthe conceded that the matters needed to be decisively addressed and cooperation improved.

“In truth much work still needs to be done to ensure that working together we overcome all the challenges we are faced with as well as decisively addressing all the difficulties besetting traditional leadership and the communities you serve,” said Motlanthe.

The house suggested that Motlanthe direct the Department of Land Affairs to organise a land summit to discuss the matter.

The NHTL also highlighted its involvement in crime prevention and said it had approached Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa to discuss its statutory or documented involvement.

Mpiyezintombi Mzimela, a representative of the house, said however that the leaders would not be proud to play a role in crime prevention if they did not actively participate in the entire justice system.

“Traditional courts are still operating through the old Black Administration Act. This act, as its name suggests, does not promote the current transformation agenda of the government,” he said.

Mzimela said it was hoped the Traditional Courts Bill before Parliament would be prioritised immediately after the elections.

“Government is wasting a lot of money by imposing prison sentences to people for petty crimes such as bread [theft] and shoplifting. Offences which can be referred to the traditional courts and thus eliminate the unnecessary overcrowding in our prisons.”

Traditional courts could mete out restorative justice as opposed to the punitive magistrate’s courts, he said.

Motlanthe assured the gathering, many of whom were dressed in traditional attire, that Parliament was busy working on the Bill and it should be finalised after the general elections.

“Our honourable members will remember that this draft should benefit from the opinions of all stakeholders, including women’s interest groups.”

The NHTL has attributed the “undue delay” to attitudes from some pressure groups who believed the Bill, in its current form, was oppressive to women.

Poverty and unemployment were also discussed, with sound local economies in rural areas highlighted as a way to do away with preventable illnesses caused by lack of supply to basic foods to the masses.

Motlanthe in turn asked the gathering to raise awareness of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to cater for needy students.

“The Minister of Education [Naledi Pandor] has shared with me that in the last year over R600-million was made available through this fund to fresh applicants.”

The money had come from payments made by young graduates who were repaying their loans, he said.

The house also asked Motlanthe that the new department of traditional leadership, to be established on April 1 2009, be named the department of traditional leadership and rural development in line with its priorities. - Sapa

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