South Africa Land News Online

South Africa Land News Online


Complimentary First Edition! 5 September 1997

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SOUTH AFRICA LAND NEWS ONLINE brings you the latest on land reform in South

Africa. It is written by South African journalists in South Africa and

assembled and edited by Africa News Network, part of South Africa Contact, the

former anti-apartheid movement in Denmark and publishers of i'Afrika, a

quarterly magazine concentrating on southern Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA LAND NEWS ONLINE joins our other individual newsletters from

Malawi, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, providing news

through our established network of journalists in southern Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA LAND NEWS ONLINE is brought to you through a co-operation between

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Laws restricting the movements of farm workers date back to 1856 when the Cape

Masters Act was passed. This act called for compulsory registration of farm

servants. The 1913 Natives Land Act was the beginning of laws which stripped

the independence of labour tenants, with the 1951 Prevention of Squatting Act

empowering the minister to remove blacks from public or privately owned land

and the Natives Land Act which eliminated independent sharecropping and rent

tenancy in white owned areas.

All the laws dating back to 1856 to 1979 are the cause of squatting, Bantustans

and skew land distribution. Farm dwellers were not exempt from these harsh

laws instead they bore the brunt. Then came the release of Nelson Mandela and

the process towards democracy for South Africa.

When political parties started campaigning for the 1994 elections, some of them

approached farm dwellers and pleaded for their votes. Most farm dwellers

tasted democracy on the sidelines but because their hopes and aspirations were

raised, they strongly believed that it would not be long before they would get

their homes back. Four years down the line and the number of people who are

forcefully removed from their homes is increasing by the day.

Squatting and exposure to an unhealthy way of living are the realities for

evicted families. This suffering for farm dwellers in South Africa contradicts

and is a mockery to the country's newly founded constitution. The right to a

secure home and access to health facilities is yet to happen for the rural

poor. Education seems to be not a right but a privilege for the children of

farm dwellers as their future still lies in the hands of farmers. Evictions,

harassment and confiscations urged concerned organisations to tackle the

problem or to at least expose the real situation on farms. Old discriminatory

laws, still applied in courts to restrict and oppress farm dwellers, had to be


The farm dweller anti-eviction campaign, aimed at exposing evictions and the

reluctance of farmers to acknowledge previous injustices, was launched by the

National Land Committee late last year. This move pressurised the government to

form a consultative process to deal with the evictions crisis. Later, in an

attempt to accommodate all stake holders, the government invited organisations

to come with their input on how best evictions could be combated and how farm

dwellers, like any other South African, deserve to have their rights recognised

and receive fair treatment.

Unions for farmers and farm workers and the National Land Committee gave their

input and the Extension of Security of Tenure Bill was drafted. Intensive

lobbying by farmers and their organisations, and pressure they put on the

government, led to the Bill being drastically changed. All positive clauses

which seemed to acknowledge hardships endured by farm dwellers were scrapped

and clauses which gave farmers reasons to evict people remained intact. This

gave farmers reasons to praise the bill, until August 28 when it was passed in

parliament with new and drastic changes - this time, in favour of farm


A clause which accepts termination of employment as valid reason to evict

people from their homes was scrapped, and only people who violate agreements

with a farmer and are a threat to other residents can be evicted, though there

must be proof before eviction. Before the final amendment, farmers used the

termination of employment clause to their advantage by `renewing' contracts of

their permanent employees. The Bill states that people who have stayed more

than 20 years on a farm should not be evicted. After evicting people who stood

a chance of being protected by the Bill, they then re-employed them on short

term contract basis as seasonal workers.

The high level of illiteracy on farms worsened the situation because farm

dwellers could not challenge eviction orders which they did not understand.

The South African justice system does little to ensure that farmers who apply

for an eviction order have valid reasons to do so. A farmer easily acquired an

eviction order without being challenged, often because the local courts are

linked to land owners through social and political ties. Sympathetic police

were also called in to speed up the process by ensuring that farm dwellers were

put out of their homes. Now with the drastic changes in the Bill, a court has

to be convinced that a person to be evicted has contravened an agreement he has

with a farmer.

Research conducted by the Land Agricultural Centre (LAPC), has shown that women

contribute about 80% of agricultural labour, mainly as unpaid family labour.

Despite these findings and reality, widows and their children are the most

vulnerable on South African farms. Contracts are signed with the man of the

family and as soon as he dies, his family's destiny lay in the hands of the

farmer. The bill now protects all dependants with at least a 12 months written

notice having to be issued before eviction, and this can only take place when

alternative accommodation is available. And this accommodation has to be not

less favourable to the occupiers' previous situation. This includes access to

land for agricultural use and services available to them prior to eviction.

The government now has to commit itself to eviction monitoring in the country.

Farmers argue that evictions are isolated cases and thus do not need

legislation. Besides proving that evictions occur right across the country,

monitoring is the only means which will ensure that evictions are challenged

when the Bill is passed as legislation. Evictions dating back to February 4,

when the bill was published, are supposed to be challenged in court. How

possible this exercise will be remains a mystery because the government has not

done enough to alert and ensure that farm dwellers know about the Bill, let

alone recording evictions which have taken place since that date.

A 78 year old man, Mr Solomon Mokoena, who was born on Deemster farm in the

Free State province, is now expected to find a new home. "I am already bones

yet I am supposed to look for a new home," lamented Mr Mokoena during a farm

dweller convention which was held in Bloemfontein to alert workers about their

rights and how the Bill affects them. There are 250 households in the Free

State with people like Mr Mokoena. People who have been evicted since July

1996, with others following the same route and with eviction orders issued on a

regular basis. In the North West Province, 7 people have been evicted since

February this year and 25 in Mpumalanga in July. This is just the tip of the

iceberg as monitoring only takes place in areas where NGOs and farm dweller

unions operate.

The situation is made even worse because farmers do not allow farm dwellers to

attend these rural conventions. Field workers have come up with a different

reason for requesting to have workshops with farm workers. " Farmers say if we

corrupt their employees we should not bring them back to their farms," said

Phumeza Grootboom of Border Rural Committee (BRC), one of the organisations

which together with the Transkei Land Services Organisation (TRALSO), joined

forces to organise and ensure that farm dwellers have their say on the Bill.

The attempts of farmers to hold the government to ransom with the argument that

agriculture is a major economic boost for the country and that the state needs

to be careful not to put the agricultural sector into crisis, has failed. This

argument does nothing but emphasise the importance of showing the important

role that farm dwellers have in South Africa.

"The only way I can make a living is through farming, I cannot think of doing

anything else," said Mr John Mokgethea, who has been issued with an eviction

order for demanding a living wage. His eviction order, along with 63 families,

is due to expire soon, and after working on a farm for 40 years, he has to find

a new home and means of survival. Now the bill states that all the who have

resided on a farm for more that 10 years, and people who have reached 60 years

of age, cannot be evicted and have user rights.

It is not only sheer hard work and dedication, or luck, which ensured that

farmers were seen as and regarded as the backbone of our economy today. It

takes massive financial support and huge subsidies to ensure that they succeed.

The ability and contribution of farm dwellers in South Africa is now at least

recognised by the state, and this is an indication that the lives of farm

dwellers are about to change.

While organisations like the National Land Committee are preparing to empower

farm dwellers by holding workshops and ensuring that they know their rights,

the South African Farmers Union is not impressed by the outcome. In the

meantime, while farmers and political parties backing them up are bitter about

the power imbalance that is now due to change so dramatically, farm dwellers

are intending to use this bill to their benefit.


The amendments and provisions made in the Security of Tenure Bill is a victory

for farm dwellers who have been living in fear and uncertainty. Though farm

dwellers expected to get stronger tenure protection for longer term occupiers,

the Bill has at least been amended to ensure that people who have been living

and working on a farm for ten years (twenty years before amendments), and

occupiers who are 60 years of age, should not be evicted.

Another section of the Bill states that right of residence for dependants may

be terminated only on a 12 calendar month written notice and then only if it

can be proved that they are guilty of whatever charges are laid against them.

Another breakthrough is that farm dwellers should be given sufficient notice

before eviction can take place and that no eviction should take place without

alternative accommodation. This section is a victory since farmers previously

evicted people without ensuring alternative accommodation.

It was not only farmers and their unions who opposed the bill. They had the

backing of the National Party(NP), the Conservative Party (CP), Freedom Front

(FF) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). In his Parliamentary speech, the

Minister of Land and Agriculture Derek Hanekom said, "those of you who welcomed

this bill sleep well tonight, and those of you who opposed it go and talk to

your conscious.".


The Minister of Land Affairs, Derek Hanekom, made the community of Brandwacht

proud owners of the land they have been denied for decades. The community

benefited from the government's Land Reform redistribution programme which aims

to allocate land to people who do not presently own land. The Brandwacht

community is comprised of people who did not have alternative land after being

evicted from farms.

Although this piece of land has never been developed throughout the many years,

the purchase price of the land stands at Rands 763 000. According to the

Southern Cape Land Committee, people are still negotiating with the previous

owner to consider reducing this amount which is said to be 15% above the market

value. The community intends to use the surplus money for development and

agricultural purposes.


They have spent the past three years living in tents after returning to their

land. Now the Riemvasmaak community is about to get proper infrastructure.

Approximately Rands 2 million has been allocated for the development of this

community. Some of the money will be used to build 116 houses for the

community, while the rest will be used to build a small scale town.

Riemvasmaak was one of the many army bases the South African Defence Force used

to own, after forcefully removing its rightful owners 21 years ago. Then they

surrendered it to the community three years ago. Regaining their land was just

the beginning for the Riemvasmaakers, as resettling brought other challenges.

After two decades apart, they had to rebuild a sense of community, and

development and rebuilding their lives from scratch are just some of the tasks

they are faced with. The Riemvasmaak community group which returned to their

land consisted mostly of pensioners who did not get their grants for some time,

and young unemployed people.

Exposure to live ammunition is just one of the problems they have had to deal

with. Until the announcement of the government grant, Riemvasmaak had been one

of South Africa's forgotten places.


Approximately 2000 people, who are currently spread around in Pretoria's

townships and neighbouring villages, met to hear about the progress of claims

they have lodged with the Land Claims Commission. The communities were forcibly

removed from their land during the apartheid era because they lived next to

white communities. Though they attempted to resist evictions, the long hand of

discrimination and the overwhelming determination of the then regime used the

police and bulldozers to destroy their homes, ensuring that nothing could be


Addressing the communities, the Land Claims Commissioner, Mr Joe Seremane, said

that the government has started to consider their claims. He explained that the

Land Claims court would consider whether the dispossessed people wanted to

return to their land or seek compensation.

Lady Selborne is one of the 13 358 urban claims lodged with the Land Claims

Commission. There are 4 500 rural claims. The Commission for Restitution is

about to embark on an intensive campaign to alert the public about the cut off

date for lodging claims, which is 1 May 1998.


The anti squatter bill: "Prevention of Unlawful Occupation of Land Bill," meant

to curb illegal occupation of land, is to be presented to the cabinet soon.

This bill is supposed to provide local authorities with guidelines on how to

deal with squatters. According to Neville Karsens, acting director general in

the Department of Housing, the law will provide special measures that would be

applied when there is an urgency to get people off the land.

Land Claims VS Forced Removals and `Fair And Equitable Compensation'. There are

supposed to be victims who received "fair and equitable compensation" during

the forced removals times. This is according to an amendment made in the

Restitution Act which states that claims may be turned down where fair and

equitable compensation had been paid. The report recently tabled in parliament

raised the question of what constituted fair compensation. According to the

report, this will delay the restitution and land claims process, and it is

hoped that the land claims court will give some guidelines on how these terms

can be interpreted.


All that Marion Cloete wanted was to find out if the police had an eviction

order when she arrived on the scene. Little did she know that she would be

charged with trespassing and obstructing justice.

These charges were laid on Marion Cloete after she tried to intervene during

evictions on the farm, Mariasdal, in Magaliesburg. She tried to get clarity

about an eviction order when she arrived at the scene and the only response she

got was silence and hostility from the police. As the police proceeded to get

people off the farm, she stood in the middle and demanded an explanation.

Instead of getting this, she was bundled into a police van and taken to the

police station where she was charged.

The people she was attempting to help were eventually evicted and are currently

living in tents, after intensive negotiations with Magaliesburg Town Council to

allocate them a piece of land on a temporary basis.



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