The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) is ready for a tough battle when it takes on the Ingonyama Trust over rent paid by people living on trust land.

The civil society organisation argues in court papers that the trust has undermined the tenure rights of about five million residents of trust land in KZN since at least 2017. These residents are allegedly forced to conclude rental agreements and to pay rent to the trust.

According to a City Press report, Casac argues that this practice infringes customary law and the statutory system of permission to occupy land. The case will be heard in the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) in November.

Casac argues that the trust lays claim to land administration rights it does not have.

It says these rights are actually vested in the Minister of Rural Development & Land Reform as well as the MEC for Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs in KZN.

Lawson Naidoo, Casac’s executive secretary, said: ‘The core of the dispute is about the decision to convert the permission to occupy into formal rental agreements. This weakens the rights of the occupants of the land.’

Rendani Sadiki, DG of the Department of Rural Development & Land Reform, said in answering papers that the Ingonyama Trust Act did not prevent the trust from concluding rental agreements with residents.

Judge Jerome Ngwenya, chairperson of the trust’s board, said the trust held land for and on behalf of the Zulu nation. The trust was not obligated to hand out land or tenure to anybody, he said.

Lucas Mkhwanazi, chief executive of the Ingonyama Trust’s board, denied that people were being forced to sign rental agreements, saying instead that the lessors are ‘invited’ to enter into the agreements.

Full City Press report