Opinionista Ken Robertson 31 July 2018

Avoiding true issues in land reform means justice delayed for the Adriaanse family

While the public hearings on the possible change of Section 25 of the Constitution draw to a close in the Western Cape this week, people continue to wait for justice. Both the ANC and EFF remain mum on how to actually implement their proposals and more importantly how to fix the current problems that plague the land reform process.

In order to ensure transformation and access to economic opportunity, South Africans are alive to the fact that a just and efficient land claims process is a critical first step towards achieving this objective. Decades of dispossession and displacement by the apartheid government, through its discriminatory laws, saw many communities being removed from land they had lived on for generations.

We are aware of the role and responsibilities of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR). What is missing in the ANC government’s narrative is why the land reform and restitution process has been moving at a snail’s pace.

In certain instances, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights are often required to work with other government departments, such as the Department of Public Works (DPW), to navigate instances where some of the land identified for reclamation by the land claimants is owned by these departments.

Poor co-operation between government departments has created impediments on land restitution that has seen land claim beneficiaries waiting for years to receive their claims or financial compensation due to them. Additionally, there is clear prioritisation of claims for the politically connected few. The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights is wholly undercapacitated which has resulted in 19,000 unfinalised older claims lodged before 1998 that will take nearly 35 years to be finalised at current rates.

In one case brought to the attention of the DA, the Adriaanse family in the Western Cape lodged a claim in 1998 for 96 hectares of land from which they were forcefully removed from by the apartheid government in 1969. In 2013 the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights awarded them the claim. However, because the claim was in an area earmarked for the extension of Cape Town International Airport, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform recommended that the claimant is paid out to the value of the property or be awarded alternative state land.

The claimants rejected an offer of R2.65-million and instead opted for alternative state land, as they felt their original claim was worth much more than what they were being offered. In 2016, 18 years after they lodged their claim, the DPW informed the beneficiaries that the department lacks the resources to complete the transaction. In 2017 it was revealed that the DPW owns more than 1.9 million ha of unutilised land to the value of R12-billion. How is it possible that the department lacks resources in this regard?

Now, 20 years later, the Adriaanse family continues to wait while the ANC government orchestrates one of the biggest cover-ups in South Africa’s history, with their promises of expropriation without compensation. The state’s reluctance to release state land indicates that the ANC is nowhere near capable of handling something of such magnitude.

The Adriaanse case is of one of many which partly explain why the land restitution process, as spearheaded by the ANC, has been slow and only a few cases have been satisfactorily settled to date. The DA finds it unacceptable that the Adriaanse family continues to wait for justice. Land rights and ownership provide dignity and economic opportunities that are being denied by current policy.

The DA strongly condemns the violation of land claimant rights due to gross mismanagement and maladministration of state resources by government departments. We cannot continue to have a situation where families are left in limbo because the ANC government is failing to return land that belongs to them or fails to offer fair compensation on an asset that rightly belongs to them.

Removing glaring inequalities in our society will require boldness in confronting the land question. It must not be business as usual as we work to find urgent solutions to this urgent issue of our time. DM

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