Land claims twist in court
The Constitutional Court is grappling with whether there was adequate public consultation by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and provincial legislatures before passing a law that could affect thousands of land claims.
Three land-rights groups and three communal property associations brought a direct challenge to the court yesterday, questioning the constitutionality of the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act of 2014.
They claim the NCOP and provincial legislatures failed to hold adequate public hearings before the amendment bill was signed into law.
The six organisations launched their land claims in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994.
The act allowed people affected by forced removals to claim either restoration of the land or equitable redress by December 31 1998.
The amendment act, which reopens the restitution process for another five years, is expected to lead to 400000 new claims being lodged before the new window closes on June 30 2019.
The organisations said about 8257 claims lodged before May 1998 have not been settled and they fear the influx of new claims will delay them further.
There are also an additional 17512 claims that have been approved, but restitution has not taken place.
Geoff Budlender SC, counsel for the land-rights groups and communal property associations, said the process of passing the amendment act was flawed.
He said although the NCOP had decided its members would attend public hearings on the bill in the nine provinces, they attended in only two.
However, Denzil Potgieter SC, counsel for the speaker of the National Assembly, chairman of the NCOP and the provincial legislatures, said the process followed satisfied the duty of the national council and the legislatures to facilitate public involvement in the passage of the act.
Potgieter said should the court uphold the challenge, his clients supported the suspension of invalidity of the act for 18 months to enable the NCOP to remedy its defects.
The court reserved judgment.