KZN Land Commission must pay out

2010-05-19 00:00

IN the second case of its kind in little over a week, the KwaZulu-Natal Land Claims Commission will have to pay over R100 000 in legal fees to settle legal costs incurred by land owners over the past six years in their battle against the commission.

The land owners, the Midlands North Research Group and Others, battled the Kusile Land Claims Committee and the regional land claims commissioner of KZN, alleging that the claims on their land were dubious.

They succeeded in an application for costs against the commission on the basis that a number of properties were wrongly gazetted and that claims had proceeded, despite valid objections by the landowners.

They contended that the claimants lived on portions of some of the farms and had no claim to entire farms, but only to the portions they actually occupied.

The land owners applied for certain properties to be de-gazetted and showed the claim is not a community claim, as the commission maintained, and that the claimants have never exercised any rights on some of the properties claimed.

The Land Claims Court ruled that the commission had not properly investigated the claims and had pushed through the dubious claims, making the commission responsible for the costs incurred by land owners.

A source close to the legal wrangle said the costs are still being tallied up. “I can tell you now that it’s going to be a couple of hundred of thousand rand at least.”

He described the ruling as a landmark. “Normally, the parties involved pay their own legal costs.”

Robin Barnsley of farmers’ union KwaNalu said the judgment is a clear indication that the commission should be more diligent when doing its work.

“There are thousands of claims in the province, and with the poor communication from the commission, we are likely to see many claims ending in a similar manner.”

Dr Theo de Jager, chairperson of Agri SA’s Transformation Policy Committee, called for legal aid for landowners defending their constitutional rights against dubious claims.

Last week it was reported that the Ingonyama Trust won a costs claim against the commission in similar circumstances.

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