Almost R1bn in financial compensation was paid to land claimants in the last financial year, the department of land reform said on Monday. The department paid more than R993m to people who lodged land claims between 1994 and 31 December 1998, spokesperson Mtobeli Mxotwa said in a statement. There were 602 restitution claims settled during the financial year, starting 1 April last year and ending 31 March this year. Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said land claimants had the options of seeking restoration of their own land, alternative land or financial compensation.
The highest claim paid was R93m to a community in Siphaqeni, in Flagstaff, in the *Eastern Cape*. Individual claimants received an average of R54 000 in compensation. The claims related to 195 967ha in the country’s nine provinces. In the *Western Cape* 198 claims were settled, and more than R44m was paid to beneficiaries. In *Gauteng* 118 claims were settled and more than R27m was paid out. In *Limpopo* 105 claims were settled and more than R151m compensation was paid. In *KwaZulu-Natal*, 61 settled claims cost more than R192m in compensation, while more than R249m was paid relating to 53 land claims in the *Eastern Cape*. *Mpumalanga*’s 47 settled claims led to just less than R60m being paid out. In the *North West* 12 claims were settled and claimants were compensated more than R50m. In the *Free State* five settled claims, which gave rise to nearly R78m in compensation being paid, while the *Northern Cape* paid more than R92m arising from three land claims.
The land claim process is aimed at providing compensation for communities forcibly removed from their land by the colonial and apartheid governments between 1913 and 1994. Mxotwa said that in most cases families used financial compensation to improve their living conditions by sending their children to school and improving their houses.