LRC disappointed by SCA ruling in labour tenant case

This after court rejected application that special master to be appointed to expedite this category of land claims

LRC disappointed by SCA ruling in labour tenant claims case

21 August 2018

The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) on Monday said it was disappointed by a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment rejecting arguments to appoint a special master to oversee land claims made by labour tenants.

The case went on appeal to the SCA after the Land Claims Court ruled in December 2016 that a special master be appointed to expedite claims for portions of lands that labour tenants have worked and lived on.

At the time, the Land Claims Court acknowledged the "dire state of labour tenant applications".

"Effective relief is undoubtedly required for the many thousands of vulnerable labour tenants. The [land reform] department has thus far experienced grave difficulties in providing this," Judge Thomas Ncube said in the 2016 judgment.

"If a special master could potentially achieve that end, such an appointment is more than justified in my view."

The matter was brought to court in 2013 by the LRC and the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra) when Bhekindlela Mwelase and three other labour tenant claimants who live on the Hilton College Estate, a private boys' school in the Natal Midlands, approached Afra to provide support in getting their claim to land ownership settled.

Concern over progress

"It has taken many years for us to reach this point and we do not believe that justice has been reached," LRC lawyer Thabiso Mbhense said in a statement.

In the SCA ruling on Friday, the land reform department was tasked with developing an implementation plan.

The LRC said this plan, subject to approval by the Land Claims Court, had to include "the names of senior managers in the department responsible for the plan, the number of labour tenant applications lodged and those outstanding, the targets for processing claims, the budget required and the plan for coordinating adjudication and arbitration of claims".

While it supported the development of the plan, the LRC remained concerned about the department's progress with land claims.

Had the SCA accepted the request for a special master, it would have been a "historic moment" as the first such appointment for the country, said the LRC.

News24 reported last week that 104-year-old Zabalaza Mshengu died before a piece of land could be transferred to him.Mbhense said they would appeal Friday's judgment in the Constitutional Court.