Didiza 'breached duty to respect, protect, promote Ingonyama landowners' rights'

A full bench declared on Friday that the trust acted unlawfully and contrary to the Constitution, when it stopped the “permission to occupy” policy, which was grounded in traditional law.

FILE: Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development & Land Reform Thoko Didiza. Picture: GCIS.

DURBAN - The High Court in Pietermaritzburg has declared that Land Reform Minister Thoko Didiza breached her duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the Constitutional rights of landowners in the Ingonyama Trust-controlled areas of KwaZulu-Natal.

This formed part of a landmark ruling that will see the trust pay back millions in lease fees that it has collected from residents since 2012.

A full bench declared on Friday that the trust acted unlawfully and contrary to the Constitution, when it stopped the “permission to occupy” policy, which was grounded in traditional law.

The court declared that Didiza must reinstate the permission to occupy policy, which affirms that residents residing in land controlled by the Ingonyama Trust are the real owners of the land.

She was expected to report on the progress of this to the court every three months.

The University of Cape Town-based Land and Accountability Research Centre (Larc) was among civil society organisations that took the trust to court in support of rural dwellers who claimed they were tricked into signing lease agreements with the trust.

The centre’s Zenande Booi said they felt vindicated by the ruling.

“It makes it clear that even though the land is held by the Trust, the Trust doesn’t own the land. It doesn’t erase the rights of the landowners.”

Booi said they would be monitoring Didiza’s response to the ruling.

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