Inflated prices stifle land restitution: official
Land restitution in Gauteng has been bedevilled by setbacks including exorbitant prices demanded by land owners, a provincial government official said on Monday.
Gauteng rural development and land reform chief director Rachel Masango told reporters in Pretoria the "asking value" was often much higher than the appropriate value of the land.
"The valuation (done by independent evaluators) is very different from the asking price (land owner's price) so it shows that the properties are being overcapitalised or the land owners just ask for exorbitant prices because it is the government buying," said Masango.
"Most of the time it is very disjointed in terms of the asking price and the true value of the land, which we get from valuer's reports," she said.
The evaluation on behalf of government was outsourced to entities registered by regulatory bodies of property valuers.
She said family disputes were also destabilising the efforts to re-allocate land.
"Sometimes we cannot complete our research due to family disputes. If families cannot agree on who are the owners of the lost right (of land ownership) it is difficult for us to finalise the claims," said Masango.
Another major problem was a lack of accountability by the beneficiaries of the land restitution programmes.
"We expect people to account for the amounts they are given to make their farms farmable. The money is released when people have mentors and strategic partners," she said.
Funding for some projects had been halted, as the beneficiaries could not account for their spending of the initial amounts received.
"We cannot just release money and not see what it is doing on the property and how it is improving production. Releasing the money in tranches helps us as a department to monitor progress," said Masango.
In some instances, the department had called for the intervention of the Special Investigating Unit to probe the fraudulent use of the money.
"Some of these cases are obvious fraudulent cases where people claim to have done things with funds allocated to them while they didn't do what the money was allocated for.
"We try and assist the individuals to get it right, but sometimes greed takes over and we have to include law enforcement to assist us in recovering what we lost, or to prosecute," she said.
The government's land restitution programme is responsible for the re-allocation of lost rights to land through processes including land restoration, financial compensation, and alternative land allocation.
A total of 313 properties were acquired in Gauteng for the purposes of land restitution. More than 6000 households have benefited so far from the programme.