Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA
Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA

If the government is to atone for its failure in the face of the Ingonyama Trust’s illegal leasing of trust land, it should ensure that the Pietermaritzburg high court judgment is adhered to. On Friday the court delivered a landmark ruling ensuring security of tenure for those living on Ingonyama Trust land, declaring the lease programme imposed in 2012 as unlawful and unconstitutional.

The judgment goes a long way towards protecting communities who have lived on their ancestral land for generations, but then had to begin paying the trust, which collected about R90m in fees in the 2018/2019 financial year alone.

The judgment did not spare the government, flaying land reform minister Thoko Didiza (and her predecessors) for failing in their "constitutional obligation" to protect the land rights of rural people living on land administered by the trust.

The trust has indicated it will appeal the ruling in the case brought by the Legal Resources Centre, the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, the Rural Women’s Movement and seven individual landowners. Didiza has responded positively to the judgment, saying she has "taken [it] to heart" and that the government could have done more to exercise oversight. Let’s hope she follows through in compelling the powerful trust to return the monies it collected from the community.

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