On 14 September 2016, the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform scheduled a Public Hearing on the Extension for Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) Amendment Bill, in Newcastle, at the Farmers Hall.
Members of the portfolio committee struggled to conduct the hearing, as farm dwellers (labour tenants and ESTA occupiers) refused to enter the hall, demanding that members of the portfolio committee to come outside the hall.
The frustrated farm dwellers expressed serious discontent regarding the problematic procedures followed by the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform for the following reasons:
- They expressed that they were only informed about the hearing three days prior to the event;
- They questioned why the hearing was being conducted in the evening which offered serious logistical difficulties;
- They questioned the presence of the non-farm dwellers, people residing from Madadeni and Osizweni Townships and pointed to the fact that the Bill does not affect them;
- They requested that they (farm dwellers) be consulted separate from land owners due to fear of victimisation;
- Farm dwellers who lodged labour tenant claims also expressed that because of the delays in the settlement of their claims, they have been subject to victimisation by land owners and ESTA has not offered adequate protection;
- Unavailability of the bill in isiZulu meant that farm dwellers would be limited in their scope of engagement;
- They raised concerns that due to their attendance of many of these type of events in the past without any positive outcomes that their submissions would not bare any impact on the outcome;
- They directed attention to the fact the amendment would not make much of a difference because rights violations would not have occurred if ESTA and other acts like the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act. had been implemented correctly. The issue was implementation, not legislation;
- They indicated that because there is a district office in Newcastle, the poor implementation of ESTA should have not occurred. The office is dysfunctional and the Provincial as well as the National Offices have not done anything to address farm dwellers’ frustrations with the District Office.
Due to the raised concerns, the portfolio committee agreed with farm dwellers that the hearing would not continue, however, the portfolio committee flouted that agreement and went ahead with proceedings.
The farm dwellers realised that they had been deceived and that their concerns were not taken seriously. They therefore entered the hall singing and they disrupted the proceedings. As a result, the public participation was postponed and no date has been set.
For more information, photographs and radio interviews please contact AFRA's media and communications officer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 078 754 0700.
For more about the Association For Rural Advancement, refer to https://afra.co.za.
To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/press-releases.