South Africa has made a landmark decision in regard to land rights, a contentious issue in the country.
The Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that mining rights do not trump community rights.
In 2015, the Lesetlheng community had gone to court to claim that the granting of mining rights to Bakgatla Mineral Resources (IBMR) and Pilanesberg Platinum Mines (PPM) had deprived them of their land. The court granted the community the spoliation order.
However, the two companies went to court to obtain an eviction order and an interdict to stop the community from entering the property. In doing this, the companies locked out the Lesetlheng community from a land they had owned and lived on since their ancestors bought it in 1919.
At the time, the 13 communities that bought the land could not register their names as landowners because of laws forbidding black people from owning land. Consequently, the registered the land under the then-minister of native affairs and held in trust on behalf of the entire Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela community, under which the Lesetlheng fall. The understanding was that the 13 members of the Lesetlheng community that contributed to buying the land were the effective owners.
With the eviction order and interdict, the Lesetlheng community countered, stating that they were not properly consulted and still held informal rights to the land. They lost in the court and in the Supreme Court of Appeal and had to turn to the Constitutional Court.
The court ruled in their favour.
Judgment: The holder of a mining right must exhaust the procedure in section 54 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act before resorting to an interdict to restrain interference with mining activities. pic.twitter.com/YUvZxRbKuX
— Constitutional Court (@ConCourtSA) October 25, 2018
In the judgement written by Acting Judge Xola Petse, the court ruled that mining companies have no right to evict communities from their land even if they have been awarded mining rights. It further said that all possible resolution channels under the law must be exhausted before an eviction order can be sought.
The Lesetlheng is not the only African community to rise up against a corporation.
Scroll through to find out more about other African communities that sued corporations and governments and won.