Community files lawsuit against 'inept' officials

The Bakwena Ba Mare a Phogole community has asked the Land Claims Court to order four senior government officials to personally pay the costs of its lawsuit for bungling its massive land claim.

Bakwena Ba Mare a Phogole, who lodged a land claim of large parts of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni in 1995, want Gauteng regional land claims commissioner Lebjane Maphutha, chief restitution advisor Nonqaba Mehlomakulu, project manager Ramere Serumula and principal restitution advisor, an R Monnahela, to pay out of their own pockets.

The community accuses Maphutha of breaking the law by repeatedly extending the period in which affected parties and landowners were allowed to object to its land claim despite not having the power to do so.

"It is clear that in the event of the first respondent [Maphutha] electing to extend the said date for the lodgement of objections, the first respondent could only do so after approaching the above honourable court [Land Claims Court] for an order as requested and sought by it, which the first respondent failed to do," reads the community's court papers filed on June 1.

Community leader Jacob Ngakane wants the Land Claims court to force Maphutha and other senior commission officials to pay punitive costs for their ineptitude, failing in their duty to ensure that land claims are swiftly and speedily dealt with.

Bakwena Ba Mare a Phogole waited 21 years for their land claim lodged to be gazetted and the commission had to be forced by the court to do so.

Ngakane said the community was "shocked and dismayed" in March when Maphutha extended the closing date of lodging objections by 90 days without being consulted.

Bakwena Ba Mare a Phogole want the court to order Maphutha and the commission to set aside the extensions and be interdicted from considering objections received after March 10.

In January 2014, Acting Judge Mokotedi Mpshe gave the commission 60 days to gazette the properties part of the community's land claim.

Maphutha only gazetted the land claim in November last year, more than two years after being ordered to do so within 60 days.

Maphutha and the commission have indicated they will oppose the lawsuit.

The matter is expected to be heard in the Land Claims Court later this month.