Home South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola tables Land Court Bill to fast-track land claims

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola tables Land Court Bill to fast-track land claims

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Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has finally tabled the Land Court Bill in Parliament after it was approved by Cabinet to address land related matters.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: GCIS

Cape Town – Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has finally tabled the Land Court Bill in Parliament after it was approved by Cabinet to address land related matters.

Lamola had said the Bill would ensure the permanent appointment of judges and other judicial officers to oversee land claims.

This after the Land Claims Court has not been able to have full-time judges since it was established years ago, except for the judge president.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza had told Parliament a few months ago this has led to the delay in processing land claims.

Some of the claims date back to 1998 during the first cut-off date for the claims.

When the second phase was reopened in 2014, more than 120 000 new land claims were lodged with the Land Claims Commission.

This was before the Constitutional Court halted the process to allow for the amendments of the Restitution of Land Rights Act as the process followed in Parliament was unconstitutional.

The government has spent billions of rand during the past few years to settle land claims.

In the announcement in Parliament’s papers on Thursday, Lamola tabled the Land Court Bill.

The Bill states that due to the backlog of cases in the Land Claims Court and the restitution process there was a need for a specialist Land Court to deal with these cases.

In addition to the Land Court, there will be a Land Court of Appeal.

The Bill states that the Land Court will fast-track cases and claims before it.

The current backlog on restitution runs into thousands of cases.

“The current legislative framework under the Restitution Act exists due to the initial point of departure that a dedicated court be established with a limited lifespan to deal with claims for restitution of land. As such there was no need at that time to establish a permanent court and permanent judges for this purpose.

It turned out that in reality the restitution process became protracted and is still not completed. A lack of permanency of judges presiding over matters before the (Land Claims Court) and the absence of a permanent seat of the (Land Claims Court) resulted in slow processing of and backlogs in land restitution claims to the dissatisfaction of land claimants.

“In order to improve the current legislative framework and address its weaknesses comprehensively and holistically, the Bill seeks to establish a specialist Land Court, with its judgments, orders and decisions appealable at a specialist Land Court of Appeal.

It seems appropriate that a properly constituted and capacitated ‘Land Court’, and not a ‘Land Claims Court’ under the Restitution Act, should be the forum to deal with all land related matters as regulated by various Acts of Parliament. This will also facilitate the expeditious disposal of cases and contribute towards the development of appropriate jurisprudence in relation to land matters. This is coupled with the cheaper and speedier alternative dispute resolution mechanism in the form of mediation and arbitration,” states the Bill.

“The Bill, however, makes provision for future legislation (new or amending legislation) to confer jurisdiction on the Land Court as and when the need arises,” it adds.

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Political Bureau