Justice and Correctional Services minister Ronald Lamola has provided further details on the Land Court Bill which was approved by president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet last week.
The bill will allow for the establishment of a specialist Land Court as well as a Land Court of Appeal.
It is specifically aimed at accelerating the country’s land reform programme as well as resolving such as backlogs and disputes around land claims.
“The bill seeks to address the systemic hurdles that make it difficult for land claimants to obtain land restitution,” Lamola said.
“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 description, location, and extent of land which their descendants previously occupied.”
Lamola said that bill also allows for expert evidence regarding historical and anthropological facts relevant to any particular land claim.
“This bill gives effect to the mandate of the sixth administration, namely, to ensure our approach to land reform is based on three elements – increased security of tenure, land restitution and land redistribution.
“This bill is a concrete intervention to improve the functioning of all three elements of land reform.
“It creates a policy framework to ensure that land reform is guided by sound legal and economic principles and contributes to the country’s investment objectives and job creation initiatives,” he said.
Other issues which are set to be covered by the bill include:
- The Land Claims Court be conferred into a new Land Court to adjudicate on all land-related matters, and not only restitution;
- The court must be given additional responsibilities, both judicial and extra functions, such as conflict resolution and mediation;
- The court must have a functional approach that is modelled on negotiation before litigation on matters such as Expropriation Without Compensation, which is proposed to Parliament in the Expropriation Bill;
- The panel recommended that the Land Court include the appointment of a permanent judge president and four permanent judges;
- The Land Court should also be required to check that settlement agreements give just and equitable compensation to landowners, in line with Section 25 and the new Expropriation Act, when it is enacted.