Tenure security for farmworkers

2 August 2005

In a bid to halt farm evictions in South Africa, the government is to propose legislation giving farmworkers tenure security.

The proposed legislation will also separate farmworkers’ employment contracts from their right to reside in their dwellings.

The policy, which according to the Department of Housing is at a draft stage, will see the government rolling out its low-cost housing programme on farms.

The Department of Housing’s chief town and regional planner, Namso Baliso, said the policy would be sent to Parliament for discussion early in 2006.

“At the moment we are consulting widely with relevant stakeholders such as NGOs, farmers and the Department of Land Affairs,” she said.

Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says the policy aims to address the specific needs of farm dwellers. “It will ensure that they are not excluded from services delivered by government,” she said.

Despite several pieces of legislation passed to protect the rights of farmworkers and prevent arbitrary evictions, thousands of farmworkers continue to be evicted from their dwellings.

Ironically, it is laws that are meant to protect farm labourers that have fuelled a wave of mass evictions on farms.

Two years ago, a Limpopo farmer, Andries Fourie, made history when he sacked 366 workers at once, apparently because they had joined a union.

A report recently released by the South African Human Rights Commission has highlighted the appalling conditions faced by South African farmworkers.

“On South African farms the right to reside in a dwelling on a farm is usually linked to the labour contract between the farm owner and the worker. When a worker is fired, the right to reside in the dwelling is also terminated,” reads the report.

Many of those who are evicted were born on these farms and upon eviction have to leave the graves of their beloved ones behind.

The policy, if passed into law, will make it possible for farm workers to get title deeds for their dwellings, and in the event of losing their job they will no longer be forced to vacate their dwellings.

Source: BuaNews