27 February 2007
In South Africa there are millions of people living on farms which they do not own and where they do not have secure tenure. These farm dwellers often face human rights abuses including evictions. The constitution has been unable to protect farm dwellers and legislation has proven to be ineffective.
While there is legislation (in the form of ESTA) aimed at securing tenure rights of farm dwellers, in reality ESTA only regulates evictions. Land owners who follow the procedure usually receive a court order for eviction. Women and children are particularly vulnerable being considered secondary occupiers with their tenure rights linked to those of a male household member. Thus women and children are forced to leave the farms on the death or dismissal of the male worker. Even in the case of long-term occupiers the ESTA legislation requires that a year after the death of the male partner / father the families of the deceased are forced to leave the land.
Civil society and farm dwellers are increasingly better organized around the protection of farm dweller rights and in particular tenure rights. Therefore while evictions may be reducing in some areas displacements / negotiated settlements continue on a daily basis. Farm dwellers are aware that if they do not agree to negotiate for a settlement they will eventually be evicted when the landowner has followed the due procedure and secured the necessary court order. Thus large numbers of farm dwellers, who are "lucky" enough to have had legal advice and representation find themselves relocated into urban townships or informal settlements having secured and accepted some sort of settlement. These settlements vary from cash (for as little as R1000) to a small wendy house, to building materials for their new informal home, to the really privileged few who secure a tiny RDP house in an overcrowded township. Thus considering eviction statistics alone is not sufficient in analysing the state of tenure of farm dwellers. The demand by organised agriculture and agribusiness for statistics to prove there are evictions, should be rejected with the contempt it t deserves.
Circumstances after eviction or displacement are often devastating on people's lives. With limited financial resources, education or work experience ex farm dwellers struggle to secure employment. The cost of service provision, rates and taxes and the reduction in farm dweller's ability to supplement income through agricultural activities or access to natural resources like water and firewood as well as the loss in assets such as livestock further impoverishes already poor people. Relocating rural farm dwellers into urban situations also affects the social and cultural fabric of families' lives. People are faced with high levels of crime and other social ills from which they may have been protected on farms.
Eviction and displacements must be stopped but it is also imperative that farm dweller's rights to land be secured and broadened. Accessing land for tenure and livelihoods for farm dwellers must be a priority. There needs to be an integrated effort from all state departments to address this issue urgently. Farm dwellers, along with other South African citizens, have a right to live and enjoy a quality of life in sustainable human settlements with the support of the local authorities and other stakeholders.
At a national workshop facilitated from the 11 - 12 December 2006 which was hosted by 8 provincially based NGOs and attended by farm dwellers, farm unions, organizations supporting and working with farm dwellers and the Landless People's Movement a decision was taken to launch a national campaign.
The campaign is to be co-ordinated across all Provinces with the focus on:
Demanding an alternative legal and policy framework to address the issues of farm dwellers
Demanding accessible and affordable legal services to give effect to the rights of farm dwellers
Initiating a class action case against the government in support of Labour Tenant Claims
Demanding a moratorium on evictions ("legal and illegal")
Demanding an alternative land and agrarian reform framework, which resolves that farm dweller issues be implemented
On 27 February 2007, the South African Human Rights Commission will brief the Select Committee on Land and Environmental Affairs. This is done as a follow up process on hearings and research done on the conditions on farms and the eviction of farm dwellers. In support of this process, farm dwellers and civil society organizations will picket in front of parliament .
This picket forms part of the role out of this national campaign. Further actions will take place on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2007, and will be continued throughout the year until the issues and struggles of farm dwellers are taken seriously, legislation is changed to secure tenure rights and access to land for improved livelihoods and legal and policy frameworks are in place to address the issues of farm dwellers.
We therefore invite all farm dwellers, landless people and social movements to join the national campaign starting with the picket which will be held in front of Parliament in Plein Street on 27 February 2007 from 9am until 12 am.
Farm dwellers must secure their rights to enjoy full benefits of citizenship within South Africa. Farm dwellers will rise up and insist on full rights.
Anne Stagler (Surplus People Project) - 083 524 9751
Patrick Sambo (Southern Cape Land Committee) - 074 337 2700
Mangaliso Kubheka (Landless People's Movement ) - 0721274055