Farmers, farm dwellers learn about land rights

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mashishing - The Extension of Security of Tenure Act has been put under the spotlight in Mpumalanga.

Hundreds of farm dwellers and workers took part at the Land Rights Awareness campaign that was organised by the regional Department of Rural Development and Land Reform at Boshoek farm in Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg) recently.

Department spokesperson Zithini Dlamini said the aim of the campaign was to make farmers and farm workers aware of their land rights.

“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 indicates that there’s a need to capacitate them on their land rights and responsibilities,” said Dlamini.

Dlamini said the department wanted to promote good relations between farm occupiers and owners by getting them to fully understand their rights and duties as contained in the Extension of Security of Tenure Act, which criminalises any illegal eviction.

The Act is aimed at regulating the conditions of residence on certain land, the conditions and circumstances under which the right of persons to reside on land may be terminated, and to regulate the conditions and circumstances under which persons, whose right of residence has been terminated, may be evicted from the land.

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. 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,” said farm worker Elias Madigage.

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 Extension of Security of Tenure Act 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 the farm dwellers to act in time when they received an eviction notice.  

“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,” said Nkobe.

A farm dweller from Boshoek farm, Themba Sekwati, described the awareness 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,” said Sekwati. -