Logo FL trans smallfacebook icontwitter iconyoutube icon

[JOINT STATEMENT] SERI and Lawtons Africa welcome the response to the amendment to the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act,1991 (Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment, 2021) (22 February 2024).

SERI Lawtons ULTRA statement 1On 25 July 2023, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) in collaboration with Lawtons Africa made a written request to the Office of the President for the urgent proclamation of section 14A of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Act 6 of 2021 (ULTRA Amendment).

The Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act (ULTRA) was enacted to automatically upgrade the rights of permit holders to free-hold by providing them with title deeds. While the intention of this legislation is progressive and important, ULTRA as an Act has not fully engaged with many complexities that exist for the people residing under those different permit tenancy systems.

One of the more prominent complexities relates to the concept of the family home, a traditional way of life in which families live together in one residence under the leadership of the family’s patriarch. The patriarch ensured unity amongst the family and acted as custodian of the family home property. During the apartheid regime, African males over the age of 21 were eligible to obtain a permit to the family home property. All other family members were listed on the permit as occupants under the patriarch permit holder.

With the enactment of ULTRA, permit holders were automatically upgraded to title deed holders. The disproportionate number of male permit holders who received full title to the exclusion of their remaining family members, together with the absence of a consultative process to determine the eligibility of permit holders to full title, is widely acknowledged as a major shortcoming of ULTRA.

Section 14A of the ULTRA Amendment provides a remedy to this inequity. It provides a legal mechanism for persons aggrieved by a conversion to full title to approach the court for relief. This relief includes an order setting aside the conversion and registration of a land tenure right or an order which is just and equitable in the circumstances.

The ULTRA Amendment was assented to by the President of the Republic of South Africa on 26 May 2021 and it still to be put into effect by promulgation.

The joint request for promulgation was made in light of the significance of section 14A and the need for a legal mechanism for substantial redress. It was also made in consideration of the 2019 Constitutional Court judgment of Rahube v Rahube & Others, which highlights the impact of ULTRA on equal access to property for women and required Parliament to introduce constitutionally valid procedures for the determination of those proprietary rights.

The request for promulgation was met with an encouraging response from the Office of the Presidency and was shortly followed by the release of draft regulations for public comment from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

SERI and Lawtons Africa welcome this response from the Department and anticipate the positive trajectory that will culminate in the promulgation of the ULTRA Amendment and, significantly, the legal mechanism for redress contained in section 14A.

Sarah Goldman, Head of Pro Bono & Citizenship at Lawtons Africa, acknowledges that the promulgation of the ULTRA Amendment will be a significant step. She notes however that while section 14A provides a mechanism for redress, it is not redress in itself. Affected individuals are still required to approach the courts for the relief they seek and make out a case. She is of the view that this creates an obligation for all legal practitioners to assist affected individuals to access justice. “There is a dire need for pro bono legal services, and without these services, section 14A cannot be effective”, she says.

Senior attorney Nkosinathi Sithole made the following comment: "Laws enacted by the democratic government mustn't be reminiscent of previously discriminatory laws of apartheid, everyone, especially black women, must be given a right to a fair Constitutional redress in democratic South Africa". 


Contact details: 

  • Nkosinathi Sithole, SERI senior attorney: Nkosinathi[at]seri-sa.org.za / 082 589 747
  • Veronica Vurgarellis, Director at Lawtons Africa: veronica.vurgarellis[at]lawtonsafrica / 082 330 8327

Download the statement here.