Plans afoot to reform land court, Newsline

The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is mooting a new law that will result in the reconfiguration of the Land Claims Court.

There have been concerns with the adjudication of land rights disputes owing to the land claims court being without permanent judges.

The move takes place against the backdrop of amendments to the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. Parliament appointed an ad hoc committee to come up with an amendment bill to the Constitution.

Last year, the advisory panel on land reform and agriculture recommended that the land claims court be strengthened and that it should have a permanent judge president and four judges.

This week, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, said the department had drafted the Land Court Bill.

Phiri said the department had also consulted with other government departments such as the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the Department of Employment and Labour as well as the Department Human Settlements.

“The inter-ministerial committee has already approved that the bill be processed through Cabinet for approval to publish for public comment. That process to take the bill to Cabinet is under way,” he said.

Phiri said all the preparatory work for its submission to Cabinet had commenced.

“This includes processing of the bill through the cabinet cluster before it reaches Cabinet,” he said, adding that the bill would be made available for public comment after Cabinet approval has been obtained. Once the bill has undergone cabinet processes, it would be published for public comments, incorporating comments received, and sent back to Cabinet for approval to submit to Parliament.

Phiri added that Lamola, as a member of the inter-ministerial committee on land reform, had been consulting with colleagues relevant to this process.

“The process which is being followed is mandatory, of immense importance,” he said.

Earlier this year, Lamola told Parliament that judges of the land claims court, including judge president, were seconded from the division of the high court randomly.

He had said the lack of a permanent bench for the important court is one of the contributing factors in South Africa falling behind in the development of land jurisprudence.

Lamola said at the time it was anticipated that the land court would have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of matters which demand expertise and speciality in resolving land dispute.

Political Bureau