Land reform Bill passed against political ruckus

The Bill, which will see the land restitution process being re-opened, was passed following a heated and emotional debate in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill sets a new deadline for land claims to December 31 2018.

The previous deadline was December 31 1998.

The Democratic Alliance attempted to introduce additional amendments to the Bill, but was outvoted by the ANC majority.

The DA amendments included preceding the new land claims process with an intensive national communication process.

After this communication and preparation, the window for lodging claims should be opened for six months only.

In addition, those who did not meet the 1998 deadline for land claims should show good cause why they were eligible for consideration during the new window.

A deadline of six years must be set for the adjudication process to be completed.

Dismissed
Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti dismissed the proposals, suggesting DA MPs were protecting their own interests as land owners.

"There's a fundamental difference between their approach and ours. Theirs is that land restitution is a project that must be done as soon as possible," Nkwinti said.

"Ours is a programme … land restitution is a programme for social justice and as a programme for social justice it is endless."

Several MPs made declarations on behalf of their parties when the DA amendments were put before the house.

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald accused both the DA and ANC of playing political football with the land issue ahead of the May 7 elections.

The party is against any opening of another land claims window.

"It threatens property security in South Africa. Land is a serious, emotional issue. It's a pity that the ANC and DA are playing games about it to get votes," Groenewald said.

"Do not use voters as cannon fodder to promote your own agendas," he charged.

Anger
The FF Plus declaration drew angry responses from the ANC and DA.

"I say to you Freedom Front, you are surrounded by a sea of those who are hungry … as we are speaking the waves are beginning to form … angry waves," said ANC MP Jerry Thibedi.

"I want to appeal to you to say one more please, please. Let us not be greedy. Let us share this land among those who work it."

The DA accused the FF Plus of choosing which parts of the constitution it chose to support.

The constitution makes provision for both the protection of property rights and the restitution of land to those who were dispossessed during apartheid rule.

"The Freedom Front Plus must be living with their heads in the sand if they don't realise land is a burning issue in this country," said DA MP Kevin Mileham.

"These amendments are designed to strengthen the process … to ensure the process is orderly, fair and transparent." – Sapa

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