The Constitutional Court confirmed yesterday that section 1 of the Land Affairs General Amendment Act and section 25A of the Upgrading Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.

These provisions, the court said, prevented black people especially, who faced historical inequalities in land ownership, from converting their land occupancy into ownership, notes a News24 report.

Justice Chris Jafta said in the judgment: ‘It is egregiously unfair to afford redress to some of the victims of discrimination under apartheid and without that redress from other victims on the basis of where they are currently located. Under our democratic order there can be no justification for denying secure rights to a large group of people on the account of where they live in the country.’

He added: ‘Millions of black people in this country continue to live on 13% of the land that was reserved for Africans under the 1913 Land Act. This is because the former homelands to which they were forcibly removed were located on that 13% of the land. To this day millions continue to have insecure land rights, which were afforded to them during apartheid. To date, many of them may access and occupy land through the means of a permit to occupy issued by the authorities.’

The issue at hand was raised in 2016, when the Teba Property Trust approached the High Court claiming to be the holder of a small piece of land in Sterkspruit, but only through ‘permission to occupy’ granted to its predecessor in 1949.

The trust approached the court to convert this permission to occupy into full ownership.

However, the municipality said the section of the Upgrading Act the trust had relied on (section 3, which seeks to convert land rights into ownership) did not apply to the suburb in question, notes the News24 report.

The trust then sought to challenge the validity of section 1 of the Amendment Act and section 25A of the Upgrading Act, which excludes section 3 from extending to the whole of SA.

The High Court upheld this and declared section 25A ‘should be read as not making any reference to section 3’.

The case was referred to the Constitutional Court which, in a unanimous judgment, upheld it.

Full News24 report

Graham Robert Herbert N.O. and Others v Senqu Municipality and Others