Gugile Nkwinti.  Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Gugile Nkwinti. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

GOVERNMENT is developing policy for South Africans who believe they have valid land claims dating back to the period prior to when the 1913 Native Land Act came into force.

Addressing a Parliamentary press briefing on Tuesday, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said he was specifically referring to the Khoi and San people who were dispossessed of their land long before 1913.

Tuesday’s briefing was meant to mark the opening of a second land claims window starting on June 30 and extending for five years until June 30 2019.

Last week President Jacob Zuma signed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act into law, which among other things amends the cut-off date for lodging a land claim. The act provides for the reopening of the lodgement of land claims by those who missed the December 31 1998 deadline.

Mr Nkwinti said about 8,471 claims lodged before the 1998 cut-off period had not yet been settled or resolved. However, the claims had been prioritised for settlement and they would be processed simultaneously with the new ones.

"As we reopen the lodgement period we are mindful that there are parts of our community that remain excluded by this process. I refer to the Khoi and the San communities who are not accommodated by this Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014. Their plight is not forgotten. I want to assure them that a policy on the exceptions to the 1913 Natives Land Act cut-off date is being developed that seeks to address their concerns," Mr Nkwinti said.

The minister called for creative measures to address land claims that the Khoi and San people might lodge. Most of the land claimed by these communities is located in the Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces, with some in the Eastern Cape.

"The Northern Cape is relatively easy to deal with. The problem is in the Western Cape, where the situation is far more complex," said Mr Nkwinti.

He said although land claims were made and settled across SA, a great number of people complained that they had not been aware of the process at the time and as such they had missed the initial lodgement window.

That process has been heavily criticised and a number of claims awarded under it have been subjected to ongoing court challenges. This time, Mr Nkwinti said, the process would be better managed.

His department has opened 14 lodgement offices and sites in all nine provinces. These sites are equipped with advanced technology to ensure speedy and accurate capture of relevant information.

"Our people will be assisted by trained staff and every effort will be made to ensure the process from the submission of a claim to the time it is settled is a smooth one," he said.

A manual explaining the process has been prioritised in all official languages for distribution at the lodgement offices and municipality offices. Mobile units would travel to remote areas to ensure that every citizen who qualifies is able to lodge a claim.