President Jacob Zuma has called on traditional leaders on Thursday to use their resources and help their communities in the new process of land claims to ensure that no claimants are left out of the process.
Zuma was talking about the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly this week and will reopen the land restitution process. It also set a new deadline for land claims to December 31 2018. The previous deadline was December 31 1998.
Zuma, who was speaking at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament, deviated from his prepared speech, saying history was made with the passing of land restitution legislation this week and that many who were excluded by the previous cut-off date now stood a chance of regaining their land.
"The critical problem that we found was that the process of taking the land from indigenous people took centuries, it took different forms and finally ended with the huge majority of the indigenous people with no land.
"It took wars, it took laws, many things," he said.
"But when we were supposed to address this matter, we were only given a few years to deal with it. We felt it was unfair and indeed it excluded many other people."
He said the laws governing land reform and restitution were biased in favour of land owners.
Zuma said he was hoping that during this period, "we will do one thing, look at the act [properly]".
He said land claimants had to go into minute details to prove that the land was theirs, but those who own the land had to do very little to stop a claim.
"It needs to be looked at by the lawyers. I think those who are claiming should find good lawyers to help address this matter.
"I'm saying this because all traditional leaders from all provinces are here. This is not a small matter, it's a matter that in my view you could put together your resources to look at this law, to look at the claims on behalf of your people," said Zuma.
This will be done so that no one is left outside. "It's an important thing," he added.
Zuma said the law shouldn't be "very difficult" for land claimants and easy for "those who say I bought this land".
"We have been at a disadvantage all the time. I think if we work together, perhaps led by this traditional house [and] put together a team of good lawyers to go through this process one again with a fine-toothed comb," said Zuma.
Traditional leaders will debate Zuma's speech on March 12.