There were 3081 land claims lodged in the Free State since 1998, of which 3067 were settled. Eight claims are unresolved and another six are outstanding and will be resolved by the end of June. The director of operations in land claims for the provincial Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Pogiso Mesefo, says they will relaunch the land claims process on 19 June. He says they will indicate the resubmission process to residents on how to lodge claims in their respective municipal districts. People whose land was not dispossessed due to racial discrimination and those who did not lodge claims by 1998, will now be given a chance to lodge their claims.
“Thaba-Nchu and Qwaqwa communities were mostly affected and those people can now lodge their claims. There are claims that were settled in Xhariep District and more in Thabo Mofutsanyana District. Many tenants staying on farms will also be allowed to lodge their claims. Thabo Mofutsanyana District has the most land claim applications in the province,” he says. Mesefo says eight cases are still being heard in court because the owners disputed the validity of the claims, saying people claimed land they had never occupied. “We don’t get many disputes because we negotiate with landowners. We do evaluations around the area and once we have reached a settlement, it takes two months for the minister to approve,” says Mesefo.
After the approval the landowners are paid a percentage and given a month to vacate. In some situations the landowner enters into a lease agreement because he would have already ploughed the crops and the lease amount is paid to the claimant until the landowner has harvested his crops. “When we talk about settled claims it includes land restoration, financial compensation and claim dismissals whereby we didn’t get enough evidence from the people who are claiming they were staying at a certain place. Let’s co-operate and share the land we live in. If they don’t want to sell they should give us reasons why they think the land is not restorable,” he says.