JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling party will introduce an amended land rights bill in parliament in May after the top court declared invalid a law that re-opened a process for blacks to make claims on land taken from them during white-minority rule.
The Restitution of Land Rights Bill, allowing state expropriations of land to redress racial disparities, was among the first laws passed by the country's first democratic government in November 1994.
But many people failed to lodge claims within a 1995 to 1998 window, and most land remains in white hands more than two decades after the end of apartheid. President Jacob Zuma signed an amended act in June 2014 to allow those who had missed out on making claims to do so.
However, the Constitutional Court last year declared the law invalid saying that Parliament had failed to allow for proper consultation before passing the law, and gave it 24 months to re-enact it.
The ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) said the draft bill, which will be open for public comment until May 19, sought to extend the date for lodging a land claim to 30 June 2021.
"The introduction of this draft bill is a crucial step in the work of the ANC in Parliament in ensuring that land is lawfully returned to those who have been historically dispossessed," the ANC said in a statement.
The government says only 8 million hectares of arable land has been transferred to black people since 1994, less than 10 percent of the 82 million hectares available and a third of the ANC's 30 percent target.
Experts say the bill will not signal the kind of often violent land grabs that took place in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where white-owned farms were seized by the government for redistribution to landless blacks.
(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo)