A specialised court that will adjudicate on land-related disputes and also help speed up the land restitution process is on the cards.
This comes after the Cabinet approved last week the Land Court Bill Amendment for submission to Parliament.
On Monday, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said the current Land Claims Court would be converted into a new land court to adjudicate on all land-related matter and not only restitution.
At a media briefing, Lamola said “It will also have a land appeal court with jurisdiction equal to Supreme Court of Appeal”.
The proposal for the new court arose from recommendations of the presidential advisory panel on land reform and agriculture.
The panel had recommended that the land claims court be given additional responsibilities, both judiciary and extra functions such as conflict resolution and mediation, as well as have a functional approach modelled on negotiations before litigation on matters such as expropriation of land.
It had also recommended that the new court should include appointment of a permanent judge president and four permanent judges.
Lamola further said they were in a process to transfer the function of 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.”
He said while the bill on its own may not be a silver bullet to undo the effects of colonialism, it was an important step that would enable land reform which was extractible, linked to rural development and addressing socio economic challenges that plague the nation.
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said they very pleased as the department that finally they would have a court that adjudicated on a number issues that her ministry and department has had to deal with over many years.
“It will address the systematic challenges faced by the Land Claims Court and ensure speedy capacitation of the Land Claims Court by ensuring that permanent judges are appointed.
Didiza said “This in my view will ease speedy resolution of the land-related disputes in the country and development of land jurisprudence”.
She said “Since 1988, some of the claims that have been lodged with Land Claims Court have not been resolved. We are grateful that we have taken this step to make sure that the court has permanent judiciary”.