The acting Judge President of the Land Claims Court has ordered former Rural Development & Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to personally pay counsel costs relating to the department's failure to draft a plan to redevelop District Six.

In her ruling on Friday, Judge Yasmin Meer said Nkoana-Mashabane had been 'grossly unreasonable' in discharging her duties, reports News24. The department, now headed by Minister Thoko Didiza, was found to have failed to comply with the order, but the personal costs order was issued on Nkoana-Mashabane, who was Minister at the time of the complaint.

She was ordered to pay the costs of counsel from 17 April in her personal capacity.

District Six land claimants took Nkoana-Mashabane and her department to court after they missed a February deadline to compile a comprehensive plan to redevelop the area. In May, Nkoana-Mashabane conceded in the Land Claims Court that she and her department had not complied with the court order.

Full News24 report

Judgment

Analysts believe the costs ruling – and similar judgments before it – were a wake-up call to those responsible for applying the provisions of the Constitution. It signalled they would be held accountable for not taking requisite action and for bad decisions, says a report on The Citizen site.

Political analyst Ntsikelelo Breakfast said the ruling was an indication the courts were losing patience with politicians and bureaucrats who did not apply their minds in decisions on serious matters.

Breakfast said the message was clear that they would pay personally for their misdeeds. ‘The courts are conveying the message that people must apply their minds on any matter they are responsible for. This is especially important for court matters which are expensive to process.’

Independent constitutional expert Phephelaphi Dube said these rulings ‘serve as a mechanism to protect the integrity of the Constitution’.

Full report on The Citizen site

However, the ruling may not help the claimants’ cause, notes a Cape Argus report. Chairperson of the District Six advocacy group Tania Kleinhans-Cedras said the judgment was not a victory.

‘This can never be a victory because this leaves the question about what happens to the redevelopment of District Six.’ Kleinhans-Cedras said the court failed to give the residents a sense of direction of what could take place.

District Six Working Committee chairperson Shahied Ajam, who took on the department, said that the judgment was a ‘catalyst’ for change in the country. He pleaded for the District Six groupings to join the committee or risk being left out in the cold.

Kleinhans-Cedras said: ‘He (Ajam) is a very ambitious gentleman but all the people he represents are not verified claimants.’

District Six beneficiary trust chairperson Dr Anwar Nagiah said the ruling was good in terms of holding the government accountable but brings no hope to claimants.

‘The judgment does not mean that the redevelopment of District Six will be accelerated; everything still stays the same. The reality is that the working committee has nothing to celebrate, there is no victory,’ he said.

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)