Following the Cabinet’s approval of the Land Court Bill, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza has announced the bill would see two separate courts established – a High Court and Land Court of Appeal – to with land claims.
Briefing the media on Monday, Didiza confirmed the Land Court of Appeal would have the same status as the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) and will hear and determine appeals originating from the High Court’s judgments and orders.
Didiza said a judge president and deputy judge president, who may be a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, would be appointed to oversee matters in both courts while Legal Aid South Africa would be responsible for legal representation.
The minister said the bill also sought to ensure stronger judicial oversight over land claims.
“This must lead to better settlements, reduce the scope for corruption and avert the bundling of claims into dysfunctional mega-claims that lead to conflict. The efficacy of the procedures and arrangements proposed in the bill will assist to develop our land jurisprudence,” she said.
She further said that the bill would address challenges that make it difficult for land claimants to obtain land restitution.
“For instance, the bill allows for hearsay evidence for most families who have to rely on oral history and the existence of elders with knowledge of the description, location and extent of land which their descendants previously occupied,” she said.
Didiza added the bill also gives effect to the mandate of the sixth administration.
This is to ensure the government’s approach to land reform is based on three elements – increased security of tenure, land restitution and land redistribution.
Summary objectives of the bill:
- To facilitate the expeditious disposal of cases and contribute to the development of appropriate jurisprudence in relation to land matters.
- Create a cheaper and speedier alternative dispute resolution mechanism in the form of mediation and arbitration.
- Enhance and promote the ideal of access to land on an equitable basis.
- Promote land reform as a means of redressing the results of past discriminatiom.
- Establish a Land Court with jurisdiction to grant any order, appropriate relief or impose any sanction as provided for in the bill or any other law that confers jurisdiction on the court.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, during his response to the State of the Nation Address (Sona) debate in Parliament, that land reform should not be seen as a trade-off with agricultural output.
Meanwhile, there is an Expropriation Bill before Parliament and the ad hoc committee amending Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation is expected to finish its work by 19 March, after which its report will be tabled in the National Assembly.
Additional reporting from News24 Wire