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Thursday Feb 28, 2013

Phase one of land audit out soon

The "first phase" of the long-awaited state land survey will finally be released on March 31, Parliament heard yesterday.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform said the "gargantuan task" was almost complete, but it still had to recheck some state land that might have been incorrectly classified.

"We are no longer hunting - we know we are dealing with 'X' amount of land," said the department's director-general, Mdu Shabane.

However, the report will not show who owns private land, or give a breakdown of the racial profile of land ownership. It will also not show exactly how much land the state owns, because land that has been surveyed, but is still "unregistered", has not been included.

Registered land means land with a title deed showing the owner. Most land Africa is registered.

But there are about 6 million hectares of "unregistered land", mostly in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Such land had been surveyed, meaning its extent, as well as the number of schools, clinics and other "state facilities" on it, had been listed, Parliament's oversight committee on rural development and land reform heard.

However, title deeds had not been issued for it.

Most unregistered land is in the former Ciskei and Transkei regions of the Eastern Cape.

According to figures given to the committee, KwaZuluNatal is the only province where the state owns more registered land - about 4.69 million hectares - than privately owned land, at about 4.23 million hectares.

The Ingonyama Trust owns the bulk of this state land.

According to Shabane, in the next phase of the department's plans, title deeds would be issued for unregistered land, which he said would then "push up the percentage of state land".

Shabane said the department's first priority in the next financial year would be "field verification", in which the government would verify what sphere of government - national, provincial or municipal - the land belonged to.

This is done, in part, by determining how the land was used before 1994. Land that had a military use, for example, would belong to the national government.

After field verification is completed, the government will also know exactly what facilities - such as schools, clinics and rural settlements - are on state land.

This was "critical", as it would inform how the state planned to develop rural areas, given its commitment to decrease rural poverty.

The Mercury

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