Bid to tackle fraudulent land claims

FILE PICTURE: Phumla Williams. Picture: Christine Vermooten

FILE PICTURE: Phumla Williams. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Cabinet has approved submission of the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill to Parliament, acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said on Thursday.

“The bill amends the Restitution Act to extend the date for the lodging of claims for restitution to December 31, 2018,” she told reporters following Cabinet’s regular meeting on Wednesday.

“It also criminalises the lodgement [lodging] of fraudulent claims and it simplifies the procedure for the appointment of judges to the Land Claims Court,” she said. The previous deadline for claims was December 31, 1998.

If the bill became law, it would allow those who missed the first deadline to claim, opening the door to new claims for those dispossessed by homeland betterment schemes, including white people. It would also allow people to lodge claims that were previously refused.

The land claims process was designed to compensate those who were dispossessed of land rights after June 13 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws. Deputy land claims commissioner at the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights Thami Mdontswa said legal process would be instituted against “chancers”.

“Criminality will exist where a person lodges a claim with an intention of defrauding the state, where there is evidence that this person was not removed from the area they are claiming,” he said.

“From the consultations leading to this amendment, we got a sense that there are people out there who would like to take chances. Someone may be thinking ‘there is a coal mine there and I place myself in the history of the area and lodge a claim [of land restitution].” He said investigating the authenticity of a land claim was a costly exercise for government institutions.

“What we then wanted to achieve [with the amendment] is to have it as a deterrent,” said Mdontshwa.


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