Land claims can cripple a farm. Thousands of land deals, financing applications and plans to develop or expand have been bedevilled by land claims, and this has cost South Africa inestimable jobs and rural development. That is why the family farming network Saai today launched the most extensive digital land claims database. This web page enables users to determine their land claim status themselves in about 20 seconds.
The database consists of all Government Gazettes since 1998 in which anything has been published about land claims or alleged land claims, as prescribed by section 11(1) of the Land Rights Act (No. 22 of 1994). Apart from giving users access to a database of land claims that have already been gazetted, it can also send a request to the relevant provincial land claims commissioner to find out if there is a claim on a user’s land which has not yet been published. It also stores all searches and information so that we can notify users immediately if a claim arises in the future.
“This database is part of a comprehensive strategy of many years to enforce transparency and order regarding the land claims process. Saai makes this database available to the general public because it is in their best interest,” said Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.
Until today, the department has never provided a complete list of all the claims that have been submitted. Therefore, on 4 May 2021 Saai sent a PAIA request to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), requesting them to provide Saai with copies of every land claim published in the government gazette from 1998 to 2021. According to the DALRRD, it would be a “laborious” task to comply with the request, and they simply ignored further writings. On 21 February 2022, Saai received a court order obliging the DALRRD to provide the information to Saai. However, the department has not yet complied with the court order. Therefore, Saai is applying for contempt of court by Minister Thoko Didiza.
“The uncertainty and crippling implications that a chaotic land claims office has on agriculture are unaffordable. As in many other sectors of the economy, there is no other alternative for South Africa than enforcing better service delivery and management through the courts,” said Dr Theo de Jager, CEO of Saai.
The platform is available free of charge to members of the public at https://bit.ly/landclaim_org. The next phase of the platform will also feature labour tenant claims.