Parliament failed to comply with a 2016 order of the apex court to finalise the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill within 24 months.
On Tuesday, Justice Nonkosi Mhlantla delivered a scathing judgment dismissing the plea by Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairperson Thandi Modise to extend the deadline.
In a unanimous ruling, Justice Mhlantla said there was no evidence that Parliament did its bit to comply with the 2016 ruling.
That ruling, which went in favour of the Land Access Movement of South Africa (Lamosa), stopped the Land Claims Commission in its tracks from processing 163383 new land claims, which it accepted between 2014 and 2016.
Lamosa favoured the processing and settling of all claims the commission had accepted prior to December 1998, before new ones.
A whopping 5757 old claims remained unprocessed by March last year.
Exactly 32 months since the 2016 ruling by the Concourt, the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill was far from being finalised.
It has yet to be referred to the NCOP. Justice Mhlantla said it was unacceptable that Parliament had made such little progress.
“The periods of delay have largely been unaccounted for, both in explanation on the papers and during oral argument,” she said.
“Where explanations have been offered, they have been insufficient. Overall, Parliament took no action for almost 11 of the 24 months provided by this court.
“When Parliament did act, the process was very slow. Parliament’s tardiness is unacceptable.”
During arguments in November, Mbete’s lawyer told the court that the National Assembly found the 24 months time frame insufficient.
But the court was not swayed.
“The explanation for the delay is wholly insufficient,” said Justice Mhlantla.
The ruling effectively paved way for new claims to be attended to in the near future without Parliament’s involvement.
Lamosa also walked away with a victory yesterday, as the ruling stipulated that the Land Claims Commission could only start processing the new claims after “it has settled or referred to the Land Claims Court all claims lodged on or before December31, 1998”.
Justice Mhlantla order the commission to report to the Land Claims Court every six months.
This report should detail the number of outstanding old claims and time frames for settling them.
“The delay in the proper processing of land claims is having a debilitating effect on the land reform project,” said Justice Mhlantla.
“Any further delays in this process will hinder the realisation of constitutional rights.”@BonganiNkosi87