In June 2021, the Pietermaritzburg High Court found that the Ingonyama Trust had acted unlawfully in issuing leases to rural citizens who are already the ‘true and beneficial owners of the land’ in terms of Zulu customary law and the Ingonyama Trust Act.
The judgment, authored by Deputy Judge President Isaac Madondo, went beyond that, to also say that the way leases were issued abrogated citizens’ Constitutional rights to tenure security, such as the informal rights to land which are protected by the 1996 Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, and the rights of people with old-order Permission to Occupy (PTO) certificates.
The Court found that all leases concluded by the Trust over residential, arable, communal, and commonage land are unlawful and invalid. The court ordered the Trust to repay the rental that has already been paid to it by lessees. The Court also made findings against the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform. These have great impact on the tenure security of the 18 million South Africans living in all former homeland areas.
Earlier this year, the Ingonyama Trust and Ingonyama Trust Board approached the High Court to appeal this judgement. Leave to appeal was granted on limited grounds on the 17th of May 2022 and the case will now go before the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. (see judgement here).
As such, the order of the KZN High Court is currently suspended until the Supreme Court of Appeal passes judgment on the matter. This means that the orders compelling the Ingonyama Trust and the Ingonyama Trust Board to refund all monies paid under lease agreements to the persons who made such payments, as well as the order compelling the Minister to publish an ‘implementation plan’, are suspended pending an order by the Supreme Court of Appeal.