Johannesburg-based Teba Property Trust has been reminded why it cannot lay claim to land it received almost 80 years ago when it operated as a mining sector recruitment agency. The Star reports Teba has been told in papers filed against its application at the Constitutional Court that it cannot claim to be a victim of apartheid land laws, when in fact it was a ‘beneficiary’.

The Eastern Cape’s Senqu Local Municipality and trustees of Teba are locked in a legal battle over land in Sterkspruit. The trustees want ownership of the contested land transferred to Teba. The trust wants a ruling that will effectively compel Senqu to convert its permission to occupy to ownership based on land tenure laws.

Michael White, the attorney for the trustees, stressed in court papers that Teba was the ‘legitimate occupier of the property as the holder of a permission to occupy’. Teba, therefore, wants Senqu to convert the permission to occupy to ownership. It has been negotiating with the municipality since 1997 for the transfer. This permission to occupy was granted to the trust in the 1940s.

Teba – formed in 1902 – was at the time called the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, notes the report in The Star. It changed its name to Mine Labour Organisation in 1966 and became Teba in 2000. Senqu claims that it is vexed by the trust’s push for ownership of land that it occupied due to racist laws.

‘The applicants now endeavour to portray the trust as being a victim of the Native Trust and Land Act,’ said the municipality.

‘While this Act was undoubtedly racially discriminatory, the trust, in no way, can be described as a victim of its provisions.’

Senqu said it required the land for use by the people of Sterkspruit, especially informal traders and their customers. ‘This public interest must surely prevail as overriding the narrow commercial interests of the trust,’ it said. The report says the Constitutional Court will hear the matter late this month.

Full report in The Star