VS responds to the "ring-fencing" demand

VS responds to the "ring-fencing" demand

This is a press release that we put out last week.

Large Eastern Cape social movement welcomes re-opening of restitution;
and insists that betterment claims be prioritised with those who have already claimed

Vulamasango Singene (VS) welcomes the re-opening of land restitution. For twelve years the Eastern Cape-based organisation, which has a membership of more than 40 000 people, has lobbied the government to allow victims of betterment removals, who were prejudiced during the first round of lodgement, to submit claims.

Betterment was a special category of forced removal that only took place in the former homelands. More people were moved under this type of forced removal, with more devastating social consequences, than under any other.

 

During the lodgement phase that ended at the end of 1998, leaders of communities who were removed under betterment were told that betterment removals did not meet the requirements of the Restitution Act and that they could not submit claims. This was later proved incorrect. By the time the state had accepted that betterment removals did, indeed, qualify for restitution, the deadline for claiming had passed. As a result many rural communities in the former Ciskei and Transkei were left out of the restitution process – a huge injustice.

For more than a decade, the leadership of VS has worked to ensure that this injustice, which affects people in the poorest parts of one of the country’s poorest provinces, is turned around.

 

The re-opening of land restitution today is the first step in a long journey towards addressing the injustice. It is however, only a step. The claims must be settled fairly and efficiently for there to be justice for rural people.

While VS has never opposed a broad re-opening of restitution, it has made its demand to government clear: betterment claims must be prioritised. This is because they should never have been excluded in the first place.

VS shares the concerns of some sections of civil society who worry that re-opening will create opportunities for unscrupulous traditional leaders to submit claims on top of community claims that have already been submitted, that these will cause delay and possibly result in settlements that are not in the interests of ordinary community members.  The Alliance for Rural Democracy has called for claims submitted before the 1998 cut-off to be ring-fenced and settled before the 2014 to 2019 claims are processed. If all betterment claims that are submitted in the second round are included in the ring-fenced group of first-round claims, VS has no objection to this. It is crucial that those who were turned away during the first round of claims are not made to wait with those who did not suffer prejudice prior to the 1998 cut-off.