The Land Court Bill (the “Bill”) has recently been published for comment, with its purpose set to establish and regulate a Land Court and a Land Court of Appeal. Currently, the Land Claims Court possesses exclusive jurisdiction in matters such as restitution claims arising from the Restitution Act and in dealing with issues arising from the application of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act No. 3 of 1996.
The Bill also proposes to amend existing legislation regarding the adjudication of land-related matters by other courts.
Of particular concern is the Bill’s proposed easier allowance for hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence is ordinarily not admissible in court, as it is, for the most part, viewed as being unreliable.
In this regard, Section 22 of the Bill reads:
S22(1) “The Court may admit evidence, including oral evidence, which it considers relevant and cogent to the matter being heard by it, whether or not such evidence would be admissible in any other court of law.
“(2) … it is competent for any party before the Court to adduce —
“(a) hearsay evidence regarding the circumstances surrounding the dispossession of a land right or rights and the rules governing the allocation and occupation of land within a claimant community at the time of such dispossession ….”
In the ordinary course, hearsay may only be admitted as evidence in limited circumstances, for example, if the court believes that it would be in the interests of justice or where both parties agree to it being so admitted.