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Women’s land rights to be addressed


Cabinet has approved the publication of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill for public comment.

The move follows the Constitutional Court’s ruling on 30 October 2018 that the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act 112 of 1991 discriminates against black African women in the conversion of land tenure rights into ownership, and that it does not apply to the former "independent states" of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda.

Matshabelle Mary Rahube set the Amendment Bill’s wheels in motion when she turned to the courts for assistance when her brother tried to evict her from her home, where she had been living since the 1970s. Her house previously fell under the Bophuthatswana bantustan administration, which gave a deed of grant to Rahube’s brother in 1988, because only men, who were regarded as heads of households, could benefit from the upgrading of tenure rights to ownership.

The Constitutional Court gave Parliament 18 months to change the law, with a deadline of 30 April 2020.

In August 2019, the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development requested the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to work with haste to heed the Constitutional Court’s judgement in relation to Section 2(1) of the Act.

“We are mindful of the deadline imposed by the Constitutional Court and April 2020 is fast approaching. We therefore urge the department to work with speed and to meet this deadline, considering that this Bill must be processed by both Houses,” said the then Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela.

He explained that during the apartheid era, it was almost impossible for black people to own land, but when they did, land was registered in the names of men and women were excluded.

At the Portfolio Committee meeting on 11 February 2020, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said the Constitutional Court would be approached for an extension of the 30 April 2020 deadline.

The Minister added that the department would consider the advice of the Parliamentary legal adviser, because the amendments to the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act were few. Parliament will not be amending the whole Act, but only a few points.

She said the department has developed a litigation strategy to monitor and ensure that everything is being done on time, and that matters are dealt with speedily.

Cabinet explained that the Bill provides for a constitutionally permissible procedure for the determination of rights of ownership and occupation of land to remedy the constitutional invalidity of two sections of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act, 1991 (Act 112 of 1991).

“The current arrangement discriminates against women in the conversion of the land tenure rights into ownership. The Bill also ensures application to the entire country, where previously the Act did not apply to the former ‘independent states’ of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda,” it said.

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