The African National Congress (ANC) intends to introduce the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill (RLRAB) in May when Parliament reconvenes in a fresh bid to address land claims, the party said on Monday.
The bill is meant to replace the Restitution of Land Rights Bill (RLRB) which was declared inadequate and nullified by the Constitutional Court last year. The court found that Parliament had failed to allow for proper consultation before passing the law in 2014, and gave it 24 months to re-enact it.
The RLRB allowed state expropriations of land to redress racial disparities and had sought to reopen the lodgement of land claims for the period of five years ending June 30, 2019. Since many blacks have failed to lodge claims and most land remains in white hands more than two decades after the end of apartheid, the objects of the RLRAB are to extend the date for lodging a claim for restitution to June 30, 2021, according to the ANC.
The amendment bill will also criminalize the lodgement of a fraudulent claim, further regulate the appointment, tenure of office, remuneration and the terms and conditions of service of judges of the Land Claims Court, and further amend certain provisions, according to the ANC. The introduction of this draft bill is a crucial step in the work of the ANC in Parliament in ensuring that land is lawfully returned to those who have been historically dispossessed, the party said.
The ANC invites interested parties and institutions to submit written representations on the draft bill to Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete by May 19, 2017. The South African government has been criticized for failing on its ambitious land reform target of transferring 30 percent of white-owned land to black farmers by 2014. This was a promise made by the ruling ANC when it took power in 1994.
According to the government, only 8 million hectares of arable land has been transferred to black people since 1994, less than 10 percent of the 82 million hectares available and a third of the ANC’s 30 percent target.