AUGUST 2001: Residents of a squatter settlement near Cape Town demonstrate behind burning barricades near Cape Town on August 6, 2001. The residents were protesting against poor housing conditions in the settlement and demanded that more suitable land be made available to them. İReuters
Some 700,000 people have received about three million hectares of land through the government's restitution and redistribution programme since 1994, the Land Affairs Department said on Monday. This included some 800,000 hectares of land returned to people who lost theirs because of racially discriminatory laws in the past, director-general Gilingwe Mayende told reporters in Pretoria. Another 1,5-million ha of land was bought up and redistributed among the poor for residential and productive purposes, while a further 773,000 ha of state-owned land were also handed over. In the first half of the current financial year, nearly 477,000 ha of land was handed out, Mayende said. The department boasted of a "remarkable increase" in the past year in the number of land claims settled. It had managed to spend nearly 99 percent of its budget, compared to less than 60 percent some other years, Mayende said. In the past eight months, he added, there had been a 197 percent increase in the number of hectares returned to claimants dispossessed of their land in the past. Mayende underscored the "formidable challenge" faced by his department in finalising all restitution claims by the 2005 deadline. In Mpumalanga and Limpopo, for example, most farming areas were "saturated" with claims, which he said would bring about a "very fundamental change" in the way land was apportioned. "Whether we will meet the deadline will depend to a large extent on how the dynamics around the processing of these claims play themselves out," he said.
"It may be that we encounter very difficult land owners and that in some cases we may have to evoke the provisions on expropriation." But, he stressed, expropriation would remain the very last option. Mayende dismissed the possibility of extending the December 31, 1998 deadline for the lodging of restitution claims. Regarding land redistribution to the poor, Mayende said his department expected to surpass last year's record 300,000 ha mark in the current financial year. He said nearly 20,000 emerging farmers had benefited to date from the redistribution of some 400,000ha of land earmarked for agricultural development.