The Land Court Bill set to be introduced in Parliament proposes a court to adjudicate on all related matters with additional responsibilities such as conflict resolution and mediation.

South Africa could soon have its first Land Court. Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says the new Land Court Bill will be introduced to Parliament soon. The proposed new court will adjudicate on all land-related matters such as expropriation and outstanding claims.

Lamola says the new Bill is the outcome of the work done by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform, which is chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza. The proposed new Land Court will have a permanent judge president and four presiding judges.

It will allow for hearsay evidence and the court must check that settlement agreements give just and equitable compensation to landowners in line with Section 25 of the Constitution and the new Expropriation Act. Lamola says people who cannot afford their own legal representatives will now also have access to assistance through legal aid.

“This Bill allows land activists, akin to the trade unions representing their members in the CCMA in the Labour Courts or the Labour Appeals Court. So it is almost geared the same way as a CCMA kind of approach and a Labour Appeals Court,” says Lamola.

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Agricultural, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza says the Land Court is envisaged to create a cheaper and faster dispute resolution mechanism in the form of mediation and arbitration where there are no disputes over the land claim.

“This is where in my view the Land Court Bill will assist once it’s enacted. It will allow for mediation where such matters are not really difficult that they might have to wait for a judge for instance but can be settled through mediation. It, therefore, enables us to fast track the processes that we have currently,” says Didiza.

The Land Court will deal with all land-related disputes.

“The court will deal with any dispute that may arise out of the land question, which may include the dispute that may arise out of the Expropriation Bill as it is finalised by Parliament or any dispute that relate to the legislation that has been listed,” says Didiza.

The court will sit in Johannesburg but will be able to move anywhere in the country.

The Land Court Bill also proposes a Land Appeals Court with a jurisdiction equal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in relation to land matters.

Press conference on Land Court Bill and Land Reform initiatives: