The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development (DALRRD) has responded to the public submissions on the Upgraded Land Tenure Rights Act.
The Act was introduced in 1991 by the apartheid regime, to grant township households with private title and was envisioned to potentially be used in the rural areas to ‘upgrade’ off-register rights of black landholders said the Legal Resources Centre.
DALRRD was pressured by the landmark ruling of the Constitutional Court that declared certain sections of ULTRA as unconstitutional.
“Section 2 of ULTRA which has been declared unconstitutional deals with deeds of grant for township households and not at the level of traditional councils” said the department.
The department assured the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development that the land tenure legislation was currently under development, and would ensure proper recordal and registration of land rights in respect to communal land.
Currently, the Deeds Registry dictum was that communal land could only be registered at one level: “if that is the level of the community, the tenure rights of the individuals and families within that community are rendered more insecure” added the Legal Resource Centre.
Repealing the laws in Schedule 2 as well section 3, 19 and 20 of ULTRA was necessary said the department to secure tenure rights. The department envisaged that rights will not only be recorded but registered in the Deeds Registry.
“We are earnestly overhauling the recordal and registration of rights through the Communal Land Tenure Bill that we are developing. We had to amend ULTRA because the Constitutional Court prescribed to Parliament the time frame within which to amend that Act” it had said.
However, the Legal Resources Centre said DALRRD with tinkering with ULTRA could lead to an entrenchment of the status quo whereby the majority of ‘off-register’ rights of 30 million South Africans retain their insecure status.
“At worst, it would deepen the insecurity of tenure problem by reinforcing the hierarchy between ‘titled’ and ‘untitled’ tenure” it submitted.
The committee also heard that nearly 60% of the population (30 million) were ‘off-register’ including those with RDP houses, on farms and people living in rural areas.
With ‘off-register property it was impossible for one to secure a loan as it was not regarded an asset and had little or no value. Thus, farm dwellers or communal land owners with off-register could be easily displaced by exploration companies or mines on their land.
The Ingoyama Trust, a creation of Parliament, totally rejected amendments to the bill and called for it to be withheld.
“If not withheld, the Bill must not be made to apply to any tribal land and Ingonyama owned land” it said in its submission.
DALRRD opposed the view by the trust and said communities whose land was held by the Trust also had constitutional rights to secure land tenure and the right to equality.
“The Ingonyama Trust is only holding the land in trust for communities. It does not own the land.”
The Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA) was against Section 19 and 20 of ULTRA as it deemed the Minister having powers to transfer the communal land to communities as backward.
It wanted the Committee to unreservedly state its intention to scrap clause 4 entirely or at least its application to sections 19 and 20 of ULTRA “because section 20 does not protect the existing property rights in the former bantustans.”
The department retorted that it supported the transfer of communal land to communities, not traditional authorities as the latter was an organ of state.
Essentially, overhauling the land tenure rights will confer rights to communities in communal land to use rights for grazing, cropping, access to forests and rivers at a community level.