Answer to a question from a reader

How can my friend transfer his Permission to Occupy to my name?

The short answer

A PTO cannot be transferred because it is not a title deed.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I bought land from my friend. How can he transfer his Permission to Occupy (PTO) to my name? The land is in a tribal area under a Chief.

The long answer

Unfortunately, your friend’s PTO cannot be legally transferred to you as a PTO certificate is not a title deed; it is a document that allows a person to occupy or use land in a tribal area. It confirms in writing that the land being occupied in terms of the PTO was lawfully allocated to the holder of the PTO. So, a PTO is a valid right but it is not registered at the Deeds Office and it cannot be transferred to anyone else. The PTO also lapses when its owner dies, and so cannot be inherited in a deceased estate. Even though many people pay a lot of money to “buy” land in tribal areas, this does not give the buyer any real ownership of the land they have bought. 

The PTO will not be accepted as security or collateral by the banks so you can’t take out a home loan against it. However, the PTO is accepted by government departments to access housing allowances for government employees.

In 1999, it was decided that tribal authorities would no longer issue PTOs. Instead, they were expected to issue a more formal and secure right such as ownership with a title deed, in line with the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act 112 of 1991. 

But in KwaZulu-Natal, the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), instead of issuing title deeds, invited all holders of PTO certificates to convert their PTOs to long-term agreements. After many people had signed these agreements and then found they had to start paying rent to the ITB, there was much dissatisfaction. Eventually, Parliament advised the ITB to put the conversion plans on hold, as they were not in line with national policy to strengthen the security of tenure for rural people. As the ITB persisted with the conversions of the PTOs, the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution (CASAC) went to court in 2018 seeking an order to declare the conversions unlawful. The case was heard in March 2020 in Pietermaritzburg and recently the court found that making people who lived on tribal land sign rental agreements was illegal and the Ingonyama Trust Board was ordered to repay the rent they had collected.

So, at the moment, although the PTO gives you permission to occupy the land lawfully, it does not give you ownership of the land and it cannot be transferred to another person.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on June 22, 2021, 1:56 p.m.

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