20 March 2013
South Africa’s Extension of Security of Tenure Act has been put under the spotlight in Mpumalanga province.
Hundreds of farmers, farm dwellers and workers took part in a recent land rights awareness campaign organised by the provincial Department of Rural Development and Land Reform at Boshoek farm in Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg).
Department spokesperson Zithini Dlamini said the department wanted to promote good relations between farm occupiers and owners by helping them to understand their rights and duties as contained in the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, which criminalises illegal evictions.
“The high number of evictions and threatened eviction cases reported to our office, and the low level of awareness regarding the land and tenure reform, indicated that there was a need to capacitate them on their land rights and responsibilities” Dlamini said.
The law aim to regulate the conditions of residence on land, the circumstances under which people’s right to reside on land may be terminated, and the conditions under which people whose right of residence has been terminated may be evicted.
Many farm workers raised concern over being restricted by farm owners when they wanted to perform rituals at their ancestors’ graves.
“The farmers don’t allow us to clean the graves or put the tombstones on the graves of our beloved,” said farm worker Elias Madigage. “It is a worrying factor because the coming generations will not know where their grannies were laid to rest.
“It is very important to explain to us so that we can understand clearly,” Madigage said.
Local farmer Alex Baragwanath, on the other hand, was concerned about the practicalities of implementing the Act. He said the campaign to teach both farm owners and workers about the law was key for both parties to understand their rights and responsibilities.
Other role players who attended the awareness campaign included Legal Aid South Africa and the Department of Labour.
Speaking on behalf of Legal Aid South Africa, advocate Malema Nkobe advised farm dwellers to act in time when they received eviction notices.
“Most of the farm dwellers ignore the sheriff’s notice and the date line, then visit our offices at the last minute when we cannot assist them. They must also know that there is no eviction without a court order,” Nkobe added.
A farm dweller from Boshoek farm, Themba Sekwati, described the awareness campaign as an eye opener.
“It is the first time we have had such awareness in the area. I hope the farming community will now know which door to knock on when they seek help,” Sekwati said.