New land restitution claims on hold
ALL land restitution claims made after December 1998 have been put on hold by the Constitutional Court, which found that Parliament did not properly consult the public before deciding to reopen the window for claims.
The court found that the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Act was rushed through Parliament in 2014 ahead of national and provincial elections.
Forestry stakeholders expressed several concerns around the re-opening of the land claims window, including:
• Concerns that government had not taken into account the huge budgetary burden it would place on the state to deal with new claims.
• Concerns that the new claims would affect the capacity to finalise the old claims, some of which remain unresolved after more than a decade.
• Concerns that the passing of the Amendment Act was a last-minute effort by government to win votes at the poll.
The Constitutional Court found that the timeline allowed for public consultation was not sufficient, given the importance of the legislation. It invalidated the new amendment and barred the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights from processing any new claims made after the amendment came into force.
However claims that have already been lodged under the new law do not disappear: they may be processed if and when Parliament re-enacts the legislation.
Moreover, the court order allows for new claims to be processed once all the old ones –those made before the original closing date of December 31 1998 – have been finalised.
If Parliament does nothing to revive the legislation within two years, the Constitutional Court may be approached once again “for an appropriate order”.