Land Affairs General Amendment Bill: briefing

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Meeting report


28 February 2000

The Department of Land Affairs briefed the Portfolio Committee on the Bill, and proposed an amendment. The bill amends seven different Acts. Most of the amendments are of a technical nature. The bill was approved by the committee and will be debated in the NCOP Chamber on 2 March 2000.

The amendment was to Clause 10, as follows:
"On page 8, in line 10, after "," to insert:
or an official of the department or any other official in the employment of the State, as may be determined by the Minister"
The following is a summary of the Department's briefing to the Select Committee. The only extensive discussion was around Clause 10. (See below)

Clause 1:
The intent is to widen the power of the Deed Registries Regulations Board. The amendment makes it clear that the Board has the power to govern debt recovery procedures, including the ability to deny services to those persons in arrears.

Clause 2:
The KwaZulu Land Affairs Act, 1992 was amended in the KwaZulu Land Affairs Amendment Act, 1998. The current amendment validates actions by the KwaZulu government that were taken prior to the 1998 Act and that would have been validated by that Act.

Clause 3:
The intent is to give the Minister the flexibility to modify conditions for the use of land as circumstances change, in accordance with the rights of ownership.

Clause 4:
The Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 gave exclusive jurisdiction to the Land Claims Court to determine whether or not a person is a labour tenant. This exclusivity needs to be cancelled and the authority extended to the High Court and to the Magistrates Court. This is designed to make justice more accessible.

Clause 5:
This clause responds to a concern about the continuity of Land Claims Court judges, whose terms were set to expire on August 10, 2000. It is not a deviation from the law and has been formulated after debate and consultation.

Clause 6:
This is a concomitant amendment that follows from Clause 4.

Clause 7:
This clause provides a one year extension for applications under the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, 1996. The additional time is needed for an education campaign in rural areas to ensure that people know their rights under this Act. All the role players have been consulted and agree to this.

Clause 8:
This gives jurisdiction to the Court to evict a person who has not been proven to be a labour tenant. The wording is intentionally broad.

Clause 9:
At present there are two ways of settling labour tenants' claims: either in court or by a settlement certified by the Director General of the Department. This clause seeks to ensure that the laws regulating the subdivision of land recognize both ways of obtaining land.

Clause 10:
The clause provides for a report that will examine alternative accommodation for people being evicted from land under the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, 1997 (ESTA).
The mechanism is designed to help both parties (the owner and the occupier/s).
The clause specified that a probation officer submit this report, but in the National Assembly it was pointed out that such an officer might not have the appropriate background for this task. This amendment does not exclude probation officers, but it does allow for other officials to submit the report, e.g. Department of Land Affairs or Department of Welfare officers.
There was concern among the members about who would be making the decision about which official would be the most appropriate, but they were reassured by the department that the most pragmatic decision would prevail. When the eviction notices go out, all the relevant departments receive them and are aware of the need for alternative accommodation. Representatives from these departments must be present in court to verify that alternative accommodation is indeed available. Further, there are specific criteria for what is considered a suitable alternative. The needs of the evictees have to be taken into account and the new accommodation must be at least as favourable.
There was also concern that the landowner be able to refute the findings about tenancy. The department confirmed that AgriSa has been consulted and provision has been made for this.
A further discussion concerned the phrase "reasonable period", and whether a more definite timeframe should be specified. The department replied that any specification would be arbitrary and therefore not realistic. The magistrate would be in the best position to determine what a reasonable time should be. This is a risk that the National Assembly has accepted.
The committee then agreed to the amendment.

Clause 11:
This amendment provides a measure of retrospectivity so that cases brought prior to the finalisation of the Act are equally protected by it.

Clause 12:
This is a purely technical amendment.

Clause 13:
This allows the Registrar of Deeds to use a short form - literally a rubber stamp -- and thus save time and money.

Clause 14:
The short title was unanimously agreed to.


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