Concourt to rule on chief vs community row over land

The Constitutional Court is to make a ruling on the rightful custodian in the ongoing battle between a North West chief and members of the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela communal property association.

The land‚ that includes parts of the Pilanesberg National Park‚ was restored to the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela in 2006 after a successful land claim‚ the court heard on Thursday.

A dispute over the administration of the land followed with residents preferring a democratically elected association and the tribal authority wanting the land to be held in trust. In 2007‚ the land was transferred to the provisional association. In 2012 trouble arose when the association heard that Pilane had authorised that a shopping centre be built.

At the heart of the matter is the “legality” of the communal property association. The Land Claims Court dismissed objections by the tribal authority that the association no longer existed because it was not registered after 12 months. It held that all the requirements for the registration of a permanent association had been met and ordered its permanent registration. But the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned this ruling in November last year.

Gerrit Muller SC‚ for the association‚ said there was no express provision in the Communal Property Associations Act that limited the lifespan of a provisional association.

Rusty Mogagabe SC‚ for the tribal authority and Pilane‚ said the traditional council was vested with the authority to administer the affairs of the community‚ including the land‚ complaining that communal property associations had “denuded the powers and functions of traditional authorities”.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke responded‚ telling Mogagabe that the Communal Property Associations Act permitted people under traditional authorities to form the associations.

He asked Mogagabe to show him any portion of the legislation that permitted a situation where land should be under the custody of the traditional council.

“The Act is silent on that‚” Mogagabe said.

The court reserved judgment.

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