Specialised land court ’should resolve conflict, lead to speedy resolution’
Share this article:
Cape Town – The government is pinning its hopes on a specialised land court to speed up the resolution of land-related disputes and the development of land jurisprudence in South Africa.
Last week, the cabinet approved the Land Court Bill Amendment for submission to Parliament.
The bill arose from the report of the presidential advisory panel on land reform and agriculture, which recommended the Land Claims Court be given additional responsibilities. These included conflict resolution and mediation.
The panel also advised the court should have a functional approach, modelled on negotiations before litigation on matters such as expropriation of land. The panel also recommended the new court should involve the appointment of a permanent judge president and four permanent judges.
Briefing the media, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said the new land court would have a land appeal court with jurisdiction equal to Supreme Court of Appeal.
“The court will deal with any disputes that may arise, which may include disputes that may arise out of the expropriation bill as it is finalised by Parliament or any dispute that may relate to legislation.”
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said they very pleased that finally they would have a court to adjudicate on a number issues her department has had to deal with over many years.
“It will address the systematic challenges faced by the Land Claims Court. It will ensure that permanent judges are appointed. This in my view will lead to the speedy resolution of land-related disputes in the country and development of land jurisprudence.”
She said some of the claims that have been lodged with Land Claims Court have not been resolved since 1998. “We are grateful that we have taken this step to make sure that the court has permanent judiciary.”
Lamola said they were in the process of transferring the function of the land rights management facility in the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
“The transfer will ensure Legal Aid South Africa has got finances and capacity to broaden its reach to the indigent, especially those who seek land justice.”
Didiza said the bill expanded the mandate of the Legal Aid Board to assist the indigent to resolve land related disputes using a mediation and arbitration approach.
“While there is a firm intention of redirecting expenditure of the land reform management facility from my department to Legal Aid Board, we will ensure that, working with the Department of Justice and the Legal Aid Board, we continue our engagements with Treasury.”
She also said matters of land continued to bedevil society and would require enough capacity to deal with.
“I have no doubt that the introduction of the Land Court Bill Amendment will promote access to land on an equitable basis and contribute to speedy restoration of the dignity of our people,” Didiza said.
Lamola stated that one of the criticism levelled the Land Claims Court was that those without legal expertise could not fully participate.
“So this bill allows land activists, akin to trade unions, to represent their members in the CCMA, Labour Court or Appeal Court.”
He said the new court had an in-built process of mediation and arbitration that provided independent mediation to address complaints raised with the Land Claims Commission.
“This court gives them (Land Claims Commission) a leeway so that they negotiate without being referee and a player… We believe this mechanism will soften some of the teething challenges at the Land Claims Commission.“