Published by Legal Resources Centre 06 November 2018
For Immediate Release: 6 November 2018
Two Communities in the Eastern Cape are still waiting for the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform to complete a transfer of land to them, 18 years after it was first approved.
In 1982 the South African Development Trust bought a large block of farms in central Victoria East District for the purpose of consolidation into the former Ciskei. In the 1990s a group of former farm worker families who resided on the land began making efforts to acquire the land for settlement. They organized themselves into the Masakhane and Iqayiyalethu Communal Property Associations (CPAs). After years of negotiations, the government, through the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, agreed to transfer the land to the communities. The parties signed a memorandum of agreement to that effect, and the transfer was finally approved by the Minister in February of 2000.
Despite this agreement, the transfer has never been completed. It is no further along today than it was in 2000. After years of waiting, in 2014, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), acting on behalf of the Masakhane and Iqayiyalethu CPAs, commenced court proceedings seeking an order compelling the state to transfer the land. That proceeding was halted after the parties negotiated a settlement and entered Donation Agreements whereby the government once again agreed to transfer the land to the communities.
In the Donation Agreements, the government, acting through the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, agreed to facilitate the transfer by paying any outstanding amount in respect of municipal rates, taxes and service charges required by the Raymond Mhlaba municipality for purposes of issuing a Rates Clearance Certificate, which would permit the transfer of land to take place. However, the rates and taxes remain unpaid, or are paid so late that new debts accrue.
To date, the transfer cannot occur due to the non-payment of municipal rates and taxes, despite the community representatives’ continuing efforts since 2017 to bring the issue to the attention of the authorities. It has even been suggested that the communities pay the outstanding amounts themselves, to move the process forward. Unfortunately the communities are not in a position to pay the outstanding rates and taxes.
The LRC has sent the Department a letter of demand, asking for immediate compliance with its legal obligations. Should that not occur, the Masakhane and Iqayiyalethu CPAs may have to go to court again after almost 20 years of waiting.
The Department’s failure to live up to its obligations has had a serious impact on the lives of the people in the Masakhane area. In the absence of title deeds and development funds, people in Masakhane are vulnerable to invasions on their land by other stock farmers, cannot take out bank loans or invest in new agricultural schemes and cattle dipping tanks, encounter serious housing difficulties and water shortages. Most importantly, the infrastructure needs serious investment and without ownership of the land the CPAs cannot access much needed capital.
LRC attorney Cameron McConnachie says that “It is unfortunate that the Masakhane and Iqayiyalethu CPAs’ trust in and patience with the Department have been so poorly repaid. It appears that the communities may have to resort to going to court a second time to enforce a transfer approved almost 20 years ago.
The Department’s inaction is in direct contrast with the government’s stated policy, and much publicised narrative, of wanting to put land into the hands of landless communities. The department’s failures are unlawful and inexcusable.”