Land bill consulting deadline extended

2011-03-01 00:00

THE Rural Development and Land Reform Department has avoided a Constitutional Court battle with land rights organisations after it granted an extension to the period of public hearings on the Land Tenure Security Bill.

The department extended the deadline from February 22 to March 18.

Land rights organisations such as the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra) had previously said the consultation process period is too short and would not allow for adequate consultation.

The consultation had been put down for 60 days, but in KwaZulu-Natal it only began three weeks before the closing date.

The first public hearing was held on February 16.

Afra wrote to the director-general of the national department requesting a 30-day extension period, warning that it would challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court should the department submit it to parliament in its current form.

In a letter, Afra wrote that the consultative process is a constitutional imperative and that failure to follow this process could result in the bill being set aside.

From Afra’s perspective, the letter said, it is simply not possible to engage in effective consultation with the communities it serves in such a short space of time.

State Lands Administration executive manager Vela Mngwengwe said Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti had granted the extension as other land rights groups had raised similar objections.

Afra’s communication officer, Nokuthula Mthimunye, said the extension is for less than a month, but it will help to a small degree in allowing the department to meet its constitutional obligations.

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