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Land reform – and the law of unintended consequences

Author: Richard Spoor

By effectively abolishing the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle, the Property Valuation Act will result in a significant decrease in the number of land claims that are settled and a corresponding increase in the number of claims that must be referred to Land Claims Court for adjudication.

This will dramatically slow down the pace of land restitution, says attorney Richard Spoor, in an analysis on the Daily Maverick site. He notes that under the new valuation Act, the price of land will be fixed by the Valuer-General, and as such, there will be no necessity to reach agreement with the land owner on price. Spoor argues that in practice only a tiny proportion of land claims – probably less than 1% – are ever determined by the Land Claims Court; the rest are settled outside of the court by agreement between the state and the landowner on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ basis. As the land owner will now be forced to ‘take it or leave it’, this will mean that fewer land claims are settled by agreement and that many more will have to be litigated to a conclusion. Says Spoor: ‘At present the Land Claims Court has one permanent judge and five acting judges. If each of them adjudicated one land claim each working day (which is impossible) it would take more than 300 years to finalise all the anticipated claims.’ Spoor adds that there are a great many land claims that are of doubtful, or are of little or no merit at all. ‘With the reopening of the land claims process, we can expect that tens of thousands more of such bad and doubtful claims will be filed.’ There exists no mechanism in the Restitution of Land Rights Act to sift out the good land claims from bad, except by final adjudication in the Land Claims Court. He adds: ‘If the values that are determined by the Valuer-General are not acceptable to land owners, they will be far more likely to contest the claims, especially the bad and doubtful claims. The contested claims will then not be settled and will drag on for years or decades. If those contested claims do ever reach the court, very many will likely be dismissed because they are either bad, impossible to prove or just ineptly prosecuted.’

Follow the link below to read the full analysis:

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