South Africa: Ingonyama Trust's Rent-Seeking Declared Unlawful By High Court

Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal.

The High Court in Pietermaritzburg ruled on Friday that the Ingonyama Trust's literal rent-seeking policy of forcing people to sign leases to live on their ancestral land was unlawful and ordered the trust to pay back the money. It's a victory for good governance and a blow against one of feudalism's lingering footholds in the 21st century.

The unanimous decision is a vindication of the findings of the high-level panel into land reform, chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe in 2017, which raised questions about the legality of the trust's lease arrangements while noting that the revenue raised appeared to do little to benefit the wider community. Millions of people reside on the trust's lands, which are spread across 30% of KwaZulu-Natal. Applicants in the case included the Rural Women's Movement and several mostly elderly women residing on trust land who felt their rights were being trampled upon.

"It is declared that ... (the trust and the board) acted unlawfully and in violation of the Constitution by concluding residential lease arrangements with persons living on the land held in trust by the Ingonyama who are the true and beneficial owners of trust-held land under Zulu customary law," the judgment reads....

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