Battle over land ownership in top court
The tussle between an Eastern Cape municipality and The Employment Bureau of Africa (Teba) over a piece of land went to the Constitutional Court this week, notes a report in The Mercury. This court was approached to confirm the ruling of the Eastern Cape High Court in the protracted battle between Teba Property Trust and Senqu Municipality.
The land in question, in Sterkspruit, near the Lesotho border, is owned by the municipality, but the trust of the apartheid-era recruitment agency for cheap labour has been occupying it for decades and is legally demanding ownership.
The Teba Property Trust launched its action in 2016 after the municipality’s refusal to either sell or transfer the land to the trust in terms of section 3 of the Tenure Act of 1991, which entitles legal occupants to seek conversion of their tenure rights into full ownership.
The Act, which was meant to mitigate against discriminatory land deprivations, was, however, not operative in former homelands which had obtained ‘full’ independence from apartheid SA – Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei – the ‘TBVC States’.
Sterkspruit was under the then Transkei homeland.
Advocate Izak Smuts, for the trust, told the Constitutional Court that while the Amendment Act of 1998 was envisaged to extend the old-order legislation to those areas, it excluded critical sections.
‘For reasons for which no justification has been advanced, section 25A of that Act (Land Amendment Act) excluded the provisions of the Tenure Act. Those holders of the permission to occupy, such as the applicants in this matter, were excluded from upgrading their tenure rights in the manner in which others were able to upgrade throughout the country,’ Smuts said.
Advocate Johan de Waal asked the court to suspend its order in the matter until next year to allow Parliament to address the discrepancies in the laws.
Judgment was reserved.
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