The Portfolio Committee heard submissions from civil society, farmers’ unions, NGOs, and farm workers’ labour unions on the conditions faced by farm workers and farm dwellers in the rural areas of South Africa. The primary purpose of the meeting was to find out what solutions could be put into place to address the problems faced on farms in
The only research study on evictions showed that roughly 1 million farm workers and farm dwellers had been evicted and displaced in the decade immediately following 1994 – more than in the decade preceding that. The Committee heard submissions about the changing nature of agriculture in
Organisations representing farmers contested the veracity of the Nkuzi research report, and claimed that there was no reliable research available about evictions and displacement from farmland. They also criticised the Draft Land Tenure Bill (B – 2010). Organisations representing farmers contested the veracity of the Nkuzi research report, and claimed that there was no reliable research available about evictions and displacement from farmland. They also criticised the Draft Land Tenure Bill (B – 2010). If rights to land were to be shared, it was easier to do so by means of shareholding schemes.
The Chairperson asked the delegates to stay away from discussing the draft legislation, and keep to the purpose of the meeting. The Chairperson told the farmers’ unions that it seemed that they were engaging the state on what direction it should take, and not on the conditions being faced by farm workers and farm dwellers. He did not think that they were communicating with each other effectively. He said that he had been born on a farm, and he was grateful that he left there when he was still young, for if he had stayed on that farm, he would not be in the position he was now. All farmers knew in advance how many workers were going to retire. There was an office that provided alternative accommodation for those people – the state – and farmers could be assisted if they made the proper arrangements in advance. As it was, there was no such burden being placed on farmers. The Chairperson said that if the Department was requiring farmers to build houses for workers on their farms, it should engage with farmers on that issue. Everybody accepted that land reform had to take place, but the various parties were not finding each other, because the interests of farmers’ unions on the one hand and the state, representing farm workers and dwellers on the other, were different.
Strategic partnerships were initiated by the state, which found skilled people to mentor the unskilled community of landowners. There were, however, problems with the model. The Portfolio Committee was of the view that the initiative should come from farmers as well as from the state. Farmers were free to approach the state with offers to work in strategic partnerships on a contractual basis. Land reform and restitution was supposedly being done in the name of the poor, but government was not listening to what the poor had to say about it. The Committee would meet with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to review the position on farms that were taken over by historically disadvantaged groups.
The Committee felt that the Freedom Charter was still as relevant today as when it was drafted in 1955. The issues that were raised by the various presenters were many, and were inter-related. To find solutions, representatives from the Departments of Education, Health, Labour, and Eskom, amongst others, should be involved in collaboration. The issue of land reform and farm dwellers’ rights was urgent, and needed to be addressed as soon as possible. The resolutions that were made at the 2010 National Vulnerable Workers Summit had a direct bearing on the issues that were being discussed at the meeting.
The Committee resolved to review the recordings of the meeting in order to formulate a draft report of the commitments that had been made that day for circulation to all parties who had engaged in discussions at the meeting. The roles of the various stakeholders would be identified, as would the specific issues that had been raised and what practical steps needed to be taken. The Committee wanted to avoid forming a multitude of structures, and people should work within those existing structures.
The Committee would divide issues raised at the meeting into short-term, medium-term and long-term issues, as this would allow the various Departments represented by the Portfolio Committee to walk in step. Short-term issues should be attended to on an urgent basis, medium-term issues required strategic planning, and long-term issues, such as land tenure, required long-term planning. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had to demonstrate, by way of its budget, that tangible steps were being taken to protect vulnerable farm workers and farm dwellers. The 1 407 land units that had been redistributed needed to be supported by a long-term plan. Farm workers’ and farm dwellers’ rights needed to be addressed in practice in a visible and effective manner.
The Chairperson, Mr S Sizani (ANC), opened the meeting by welcoming the representatives from civil society. The purpose of the meeting was to gain a better picture of the conditions faced by farm workers and farm dwellers on rural land. The Committee sought to understand whether the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had the infrastructure to deal with the problems identified at ground level by farming communities, and whether there were enough resources to fill the gaps identified by practitioners working in that area. The Committee also wanted to hear from farmers about their experiences, in order to help to gain an understanding of what needed to happen to make the experiences of all parties in the rural areas amicable. Farmers had to farm and workers had to work in a manner that achieved stability and upheld rights. The primary purpose of the meeting was to find out what solutions could be put into place to address the problems faced on farms in
Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape submission
Dr Ruth Hall, PLAAS senior researcher, spoke on farm workers and farm dwellers in South Africa, with an emphasis on tenure, livelihoods and social justice. The presentation included research findings from Limpopo province, and attempted to do three things: firstly, to give a sense of what was changing in terms of the employment conditions on farms; secondly, to present relevant findings from field-based research, particularly in Limpopo, to provide important insights about the lives of people working and living on commercial farms; and thirdly, to shed light on the various policy choices faced by the country.
Dr Hall said that farm workers and farm dwellers were not the same category of people. Although the categories were overlapping, they were also different. Many people lived on farms, but were not employed there, while others worked on farms but did not live on those farms. The situation varied drastically from province to province. Farms provided homes for roughly 3 million people in
The Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 (“ESTA”) was introduced by government in order to intervene by establishing a balance between the opposing interests of farmers and farm workers and dwellers. The legislation was not aimed at stopping evictions, but merely to regulate them, ensuring that all evictions were conducted in a legally valid manner, with a court hearing taking into account all relevant factors. Section 4 of ESTA provided options for long-term tenure security, for farm dwellers to benefit from land redistribution and to acquire land and housing of their own, but that part of the legislation was almost entirely unused. The fact that Section 4 stated that “the Minister shall make available funds” for that purpose, and that it had not happened to date, indicated the possibility that a legal challenge could be brought against the Minister for failing to follow the peremptory dictates of the Act.
In 2005, Social Surveys Africa together with Nkuzi Development Association conducted a National Evictions Survey. The survey was overseen by an advisory committee comprised of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, AgriSA, unions and others. A summary of key findings from the study indicated that roughly 942 000 people had been evicted from farms during the period ranging from 1994 – end 2004, significantly more than in the period ranging from 1984 – end 1993. This illustrated that there had been an increase in insecurity of tenure since the birth of democracy in 1994. Most farm dwellers that were evicted now resided in urban informal settlements.
The changing nature of agriculture in
Statistics gathered between 1971–2007 showed a dramatic reduction in the total number of commercial farms in
The PLAAS study, conducted in Limpopo province, aimed to determine what features were changing in the economic context; how policy and legislation was changing the approaches of farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers; what the official policy responses were, and what future scenarios were envisaged by key actors in order to achieve social justice and to formulate strategies for change.
Dr Hall pointed out that it was necessary to recognise that tenure security formed a basis upon which people could build livelihoods, and needed to include access to housing, land, water and services. Linked to tenure security was the all-important issue of livelihoods, including access to wages and social grants as well as the possibility of people producing their own outputs and engaging in trade. Security of tenure and the accompanying attainment of livelihoods formed the basis for achieving the core values of the South African Constitution, human dignity, equality and freedom.
The PLAAS study looked at a few farms in Vhembe District in
The study was conducted at various farms in
Throughout the course of the study, it became clear that tenure without livelihood was insufficient to ensure a decent standard of living of farm dwellers. On the game farm, one elderly man used ESTA to resist eviction with the assistance of two non-government organisations (NGOs), and was granted the right to remain on the farm, but had no livelihood. Secured tenure needed to form the basis for livelihoods, and was not a solution in itself.
At the vegetable farm, PLAAS learned that labour was expensive, and that this type of farming was capital intensive. Some workers had moved into senior managerial positions and were able to access parts of the farmland in order to grow their own crops. There was a thriving local economy within the farm, where people were able to produce and trade a variety of goods and services.
At Levubu, where many horticulture farms were being run by strategic partnerships, a large number of fruit and nut farms had been taken over by local communities. In the process, 40% of workers lost their jobs when they were replaced by prioritised new workers from claimant communities, who had become the actual owners of the land. Some farm dwellers who were unemployed, and had been on the land for as long as three generations, were allowed to stay on by the new owners, who expressed support for their right to remain.
At a citrus farm at Tshipise, PLAAS learned that only a portion of the land was under production, and that the land was under claim by some local communities. Some 80% of the workers were Zimbabwean nationals, and there was a sense that they were considered easier to move off the farm than South African workers when a claim was approved. At the different farms, PLAAS learned that the introduction of mandatory minimum wages prompted landowners to take deductions from workers’ salaries to pay for their accommodation needs. This practice, whereby farm workers were made to pay per person to reside on the farm, meant that workers could not afford to live with their family members. The legality of the practice should be challenged, as it severely affected the right to family life.
From the study, PLAAS identified three important drivers of change on farms that severely undermined the position of farm workers and dwellers. Firstly, economic restructuring and the changing face of agriculture meant that there were rising exports and mechanisation, a shift to less labour-intensive production and heavier reliance on seasonal labour. Secondly, restitution was a major driver of change. All of the studied sites were under claim, some of which involved complex and overlapping claims. As a result, there was an increase in strategic partnerships and a notable shift away from long-term, on-farm farm workers. Thirdly, migration patterns resulted in a new wave of economic and political refugees – especially with the availability of a cheap labour force from
PLAAS observed two major trajectories of change on commercial farms, namely horticultural intensification in some instances and conversion to game farming in others, leading to an overall reduction in employment opportunities. From the study, PLAAS concluded that people living and working within the surveyed farming communities, and as farm owners and managers, held very different visions for the future, and that there were woefully few platforms for those visions to be discussed and debated.
As PLAAS saw it, the only way that rural challenges could be successfully overcome would be by means of big policy changes on the part of government. PLAAS set out four possible choices facing government:
1. Whether the aim was to provide homes, jobs and livelihoods on farms for as many people as possible, or for that population to dwindle over time and move into communal areas, agri-villages and towns. Government policy was unclear in this regard.
2. Whether the rights to security of tenure held by people living on land owned by others (as in the Constitution and in land law) were to be realised or abandoned. Government needed to consider whether the right to security of tenure could be achieved by resorting to new mechanisms, or whether it was wholly unachievable.
3. Whether the provision of services and development planning were to encompass commercial farming areas and whether the needs of people on privately owned land should be addressed by the state, by farmers, or by farmers with the assistance of the state – or not at all. While some farmers provided access to basic services for people living and working on their farms, some did not.
4. Whether farm workers and dwellers and their families were to be empowered to diversify their sources of livelihoods on farms – or whether they should be limited to wage employment. Government needed to consider whether it wanted to promote a proletarian or a diversified livelihood model in the rural areas.
PLAAS outlined four future scenarios that could occur in practice. According to the first, there would be a continuation of current trends, whereby only 1% of evictions occurred by means of court order, and there was no real likelihood of conviction for illegal evictions. Further, there would be very little provision of social services. This scenario was likely if there was no political will, and no real pressure from farm dwellers themselves. According to the second, the state would step in to enforce and provide rights and services on farms. This would involve closer settlements and the instatement of servitudes, but would not prevent job losses unless a new model of agricultural policy was introduced.
The third scenario would involve the state assisting farmers to provide services to people living on farms. Some dimensions of this scenario were emerging in current policy thinking, as could be detected in the Department of Housing and Human Settlement’s current strategy. If this route were taken, the state could incentivise job creation, and there would have to be concrete agreements between the state and farm owners, with the state sharing the costs with farmers. This situation was likely if there was moblilisation and demand for jobs.
The fourth scenario would involve radical restructuring by the state – driven by a strong social movement – whereby farm workers would be empowered to become small-scale farmers. According to this scenario, there would be more rapid land redistribution, with the state providing services to people living in closer rural settlements. That model would necessarily override private property, and as such, did not seem likely to be pursued any time soon. In conclusion, Dr Hall told the Committee that as policy decisions were debated, they should consider the four options, as formulated by PLAAS from their surveys of all relevant stakeholders on the ground.
Ms Annelize Crosby, Parliamentary Officer for Agri-SA, said that there was a need to recognise that the tenure part of the land reform project was the most difficult element because of the inherent conflict between the competing rights of farm owners and farm workers and dwellers. It was easier to buy or expropriate land from one party and give it to another than to attempt to balance the various parties’ rights on the same land. If rights to land were to be shared, it was easier to do so by means of shareholding schemes. She claimed that the security of tenure legislation was unpopular from all points of view, and that made it difficult to implement.
Ms Crosby said that the legislative intention behind ESTA was not to prevent evictions, but to regulate them, and that the provisions of ESTA would be effective if they were implemented properly. Implementation had however, been weak, and that was one of the major reasons for peoples’ dissatisfaction with ESTA. Ms Crosby submitted that “objectively”, the legislation provided a mechanism for fair evictions, but that from farmers’ perspective, the eviction process that it required was drawn out and expensive. Farmers were experiencing problems with security on farms, and the fact that visitors were allowed access to farms was problematic for farmers. There were also many conflicts over livestock numbers and grazing rights.
Ms Crosby submitted that there was empirical evidence to prove that ESTA had a negative impact on farm values. One particular problem was the Act’s wide definition of ‘occupier’. The fact that the legislation failed to make a distinction between occupiers who had been on the land for one day and those who had been there for a period of several years meant that it was easy for people to acquire “occupier” rights, even when they had only been on the land for a short period of time. The legislative requirement that when evicting people from their land, farmers should provide suitable alternative accommodation meant that, in practice, farmers have had to provide for such accommodation from their own pockets even when there were good grounds for eviction. Furthermore, the Act failed to provide sufficient detail and incentive with regard to mediation as a mechanism for resolving disputes, even though research showed that mediation could be effective in such instances.
The Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 3 of 1996 (“LTA”) was plagued by weak implementation, and little had happened in terms of that legislation. Very few Section 17 notices had been sent to land owners to inform them that their land was under claim, even though the cut-off date for lodgement of labour tenant claims was in 2001. Often the areas that were claimed were not economically viable, so that even if people were successful with their claims, they were unable to make a living from the land. In other cases, where a portion of land was excised from a commercial farm, it resulted in the farm becoming an uneconomical farming unit. The LTA led to even more disputes over livestock and grazing rights than ESTA did.
Ms Crosby questioned whether there was a justification for new and far-reaching legislation to govern land reform issues. She disputed the veracity of claims of large-scale illegal evictions, and disagreed with that part of the Nkuzi Report, as cited by Dr Hall in her presentation. She said that while ESTA was only enacted in 1997, the report covered a period of 21 years, and therefore could not be trusted to convey an accurate picture. Ms Crosby claimed that the majority of evictions from farmland took place through court order, as required by ESTA. Ms Crosby submitted that it was a major problem that there was “no reliable, objective research” available about evictions from farmland, and that farm workers and dwellers had moved off farms for reasons other than those suggested by the Nkuzi Report.
Ms Crosby said that AgriSA had offered its assistance in dealing with eviction disputes. In some provinces, organised agriculture had been involved in the resolution of disputes, but those structures had not survived. Ms Crosby submitted that there was promise in those types of joint structures. With regard to the Draft Land Tenure Bill (B – 2010) (“the Bill”), AgriSA believed that it would fail to achieve its stated objectives, most of which AgriSA supported. The Bill stated that it was aimed at promoting harmonious relationships on farms, ensure production discipline and make land more accessible to historically disadvantaged people. She submitted that if the Bill were enacted, it would fail to achieve its objectives, and may in fact achieve the exact opposite. The Bill, if enacted, would bestow unlimited and far-reaching rights on all farm residents, and that would impact negatively on farming activity. In the long term, it would result in less access to commercial farms for historically disadvantaged people than they currently had. There would be a negative impact on relationships on farms, as well as commercial production and food exports. The Bill was more ambitious than ESTA or the LTA, but if there was not enough capacity to implement the existing legislation satisfactorily, it seemed unlikely that the objectives of the Bill would be implemented.
Ms Crosby said that the Bill shifted responsibility onto farmers, and submitted that instead, tax-payers, through the state, should carry the financial burden of providing services for farm dwellers and farm workers, as farmers were unable to do so. AgriSA believed that commercial farming should be made more accessible to historically disadvantaged people, but not in the way envisaged by the Bill. If enacted, it would disturb the delicate balance currently existing on farms. Farms had limited resources, and many commercial farms were already being farmed to capacity. Among the factors leading to financial constraints on the part of farmers were the strict controls imposed on farms. In the
Ms Crosby concluded that the government should not make policy on the basis of perceptions, but on facts. AgriSA requested independent research to establish the facts about evictions. Government needed to consider implementation capacity when making legislative decisions.
The Chairperson called on the “Transvaal Farmers’
TAU SA submission
Mr Bennie van Zyl, General Manager, told the Chairperson that the name of the union was no longer the “Transvaal Farmers’ Union”, but had been changed to “TAU South Africa” eight years prior. Mr van Zyl said that the purpose of farmers in
He claimed that if the Bill were approved by Parliament, Section 25 of the Constitution, which guaranteed property rights, would be undermined. The proposed Bill threatened the right to private property, and went even further than the circumscribed expropriation process allowed in terms of Section 25. As such, he claimed that the proposed legislation was unconstitutional. He submitted that independent experts had found that 56% of all land in
TAU SA was of the opinion that only the registered owner of land should have the sole right to that land, and that principle should be applicable throughout the entire South African economy. He submitted that it was not compulsory for employers to provide housing for their employees, and that housing and the provision of water, electricity and transport were privileges or fringe benefits to be included discretionarily in a labour contract. If a contract of employment came to an end, so should the benefits accompanying that contract. Mr van Zyl said that farmers were willing to build a future for the agricultural sector in
He claimed that farmers’ obligations were restricted to the provision of a service contract and basic principles of human decency, provision of a safe work environment and remuneration for services rendered. He denied that there was any responsibility due to people merely living on farms. Mr van Zyl said that unfair and unreasonable enforcement of a system in which agricultural employer were required to surrender their land would result in a situation that when workers retired, they would not be replaced. Enlarging workers’ living areas and allowing them to farm and keep livestock on the farm owner’s land was a form of constructive expropriation and could lead to a scenario where the farm would become economically unviable. The Bill, if passed, could lead to further unemployment and put food security at further risk. If the number of commercial agricultural employers were reduced further, the food security crisis would deepen, in view of the uncontrolled entry of people into the country, all of whom demanded food, water and other resources.
TAU SA wanted to know what the real purpose of the Bill was. Mr van Zyl claimed that the Bill failed to make economic sense, and that it was totally out of step with international norms. Government had to decide whether it wanted a commercial farming industry in
Mr van Zyl quoted from a New York Times editorial by economist Paul Krugman, which said that food and the ability to eat properly was going to become the single biggest political issue of the next decade. Mr van Zyl submitted that food security was an issue of political economy, and that multiplying the unpredictable variables determining food costs would make the food economy more volatile, thereby causing intensified problems for the poor. If the proposed legislation were promulgated, food security would eventually be put at risk. History could not be changed, and that the present and the future were what really mattered. The government should reconsider its approach, and concern itself with the future and the hard economic facts that would determine continued existence.
The Chairperson opened the floor to allow members to interact with the submissions that had been made. He told Mr van Zyl that the TAU SA submission focussed on draft legislation, instead of the purpose of the meeting, which was to explore the conditions of farm dwellers and farm labourers on farms. Since the Draft Bill was still being open to the public for commentary, and had not yet been tabled in Parliament, it was not the appropriate time to discuss it, and those present needed to focus on the purpose of the meeting.
Mr van Zyl replied that TAU SA had only received the invitation from Parliament shortly before the meeting, and was therefore unable to prepare according to the topic as required.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee would not be discussing the Bill at that meeting.
Ms A Steyn (DA) directed her questions and comments at Dr Hall. She wanted to know whether PLAAS had done any actual studies on displacement from farms. She perceived one of the causes of the rising unemployment in the Vhembe District of Limpopo to be land restitution. Ms Steyn asked how problems of access to social services were being met on the horticultural farm where farm dwellers were conducting their own industries. She assumed that it indicated that there was a good relationship between the farm owner and farm dwellers on that farm, and suggested that the farm could possibly form a model for government to consider.
Another DA member wanted to know what the impact on property values and raising finance for working capital would be if the Bill were approved. He asked how the proposed legislation would increase food production and profitability, as well as the affordability of food.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) directed questions at Dr Hall. She said that since 2000, many farmers had transformed their farms to game farms, and wanted to know if this was because those farms were no longer productive, or whether it was due to some other reason. The phenomenon had reduced food production and food security, and resulted in the loss of jobs for farm workers. On many farms, strategic partners were looking to transfer skills to local communities who did not have the requisite skills to tend the farms, but there was no evidence of such skills transfer, and this was cause for concern.
Ms N November (ANC) said that in many strategic partnerships, there was in fact no skills transfer. Before strategic partnership contracts were entered into, there needed to be a proper legal foundation, because even in the case of such contracts, people were being robbed. She asked Mr van Zyl whether there were any contracts entered into between farmers and people living on farms providing that they would have to leave the farm when their families grew larger.
Mr Thulas Nexi, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, asked Mr van Zyl what the acronym “TAU” stood for. He also asked him to clarify if housing was a privilege, or whether it was a basic right as stated in the Constitution. He asked if farmers’ unions accepted that when people were evicted from farms they became homeless, and how farmers expected government to deal with that consequence.
Ms M Phaliso (ANC) asked the presenters to help her to understand the concept of strategic partnerships. She said that when she went to an on-site visit to
Deputy Minister Nexi asked Dr Hall why there were increased evictions and transgressions against farm workers and farm dwellers even though laws were enacted to protect them, and what the legislature could do to ensure that those laws were being implemented properly. He said that from what he had read in the press, he gathered that police were assisting farmers in undertaking illegal evictions. He also wanted to know how many secured jobs had been lost in the rural districts in the democratic period, and what needed to be done to strengthen security of tenure for farm workers and farm dwellers.
The Chairperson said that the majority of members were looking at issues other than the conditions of farm workers and farm dwellers, and that they should keep their questions to the point of the meeting. The concept of strategic partnerships should be dealt with at another time, as that matter was not before the Committee.
An ANC member asked Dr Hall what the conditions of the farm workers and farm dwellers were on the farms that PLAAS visited in the course of its research since the report was compiled in 2008.
Mr Hans van der Merwe, Executive Director: AgriSA, emphasised the need to create jobs and to create an equitable, fair society in
The Chairperson remarked that he was not sure that Mr van der Merwe was addressing the question put to AgriSA.
Mr van der Merwe responded that the economic realities he had outlined were the reason that there were fewer farmers and fewer farm workers on farms. He said when government made policy decisions, it needed to look at the situation from the farmers’ point of view, and that ESTA had created uncertainty and contributed to a situation where farmers ensured they only employed people who would make a positive contribution to the farm. He asked whose responsibility it was to ensure basic services for farm workers. If the ESTA route was pursued, it would have unintended consequences in the long-term, and farmers would choose to mechanise rather than employ workers.
Mr van der Merwe submitted that the third option, as presented by Dr Hall– to incentivise rather than to further burden farmers with further expense – should be the route the government chose to follow. He said that additional cost burdens and uncertainty would negatively impact property values, and that production would ultimately be impacted too.
Mr van Zyl agreed with Mr van der Merwe, and stated that if there were trust, there would be investment. He said that there had to be more growth to build an economically stronger country, and that the land tenure legislation resulted in uncertainty, the opposite of trust. Mr van Zyl claimed that farmers “never ever evicted anybody”. The legislation gave rights to every person who had ever stayed on a farm, even if they were not working on the farm. On his own farm, the elderly stayed on the land and took care of the workers’ children while they worked. Sometimes, as a result of the legislation, farmers were given no choice but to “clean up” their farms. Farmers did not want to put people on the street, but productive land was being put out of commission in the process of allowing people to stay on the land.
The Chairperson told the farmers’ unions that it seemed that they were engaging the state on what direction it should take, and not on the conditions being faced by farm workers and farm dwellers. He did not think that they were communicating with each other effectively. He told Mr van Zyl that he was born on a farm, and he was grateful that he left there when he was still young, for if he had stayed on that farm, he would not be in the position he was now. He said that all farmers knew in advance how many workers were going to retire. There was an office that provided alternative accommodation for those people – the state – and farmers could be assisted if they made the proper arrangements in advance. As it was, there was no such burden being placed on farmers.
The Chairperson said that if the Department that was requiring farmers to build houses for workers on their farms, it should engage with farmers on that issue. There should be a farm plan, demarcating land to be used for accommodation for farm workers and dwellers. He wanted to know why the farmers’ unions did not engage with the state in that regard. Everybody accepted that land reform had to take place, but the various parties were not finding each other, because the interests of farmers’ unions on the one hand and the state, representing farm workers and dwellers on the other, were different. Not even political parties were able to conquer that thorny issue, because they were protecting their various constituencies, instead of advancing the interests of the nation as a whole. With regard to the costs of doing business on farms, the Chairperson stated that there were no import tariffs on farm products from other countries and no subsidies provided for South African products. He questioned why farmers unions could not work together with government to put such tariffs and subsidies in place.
He said that everyone should consider that strategic partnerships were initiated by the state, not farmers, and that the initiative was one whereby the state found skilled people to mentor the unskilled community of landowners. There were, however, two problems with the model. Firstly, there was no contractual obligation requiring a strategic partner to meet certain requirements. Secondly, if there were any such obligations, there was no effective monitoring of them.
The Portfolio Committee was of the view that the initiative could come from farmers as well as from the state. Farmers were free to approach the state with offers to work in strategic partnerships on a contractual basis. Complaining, accusations, and judging one other would lead nowhere. Land reform and restitution was supposedly being done in the name of the poor, but government was not listening what the poor had to say about it, but was instead getting caught up in party politics. The Committee would meet with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to review the position on farms that were taken over by historically disadvantaged groups. The Committee was not moving forward, although Dr Hall from PLAAS was, because she was tabling new proposals, which the Committee needed to hear. [Audio recording stops at this point]
Dr Hall responded to the questions that were put to her and outlined her understanding of ESTA. She asserted that housing was not a privilege, as claimed by TAU SA, but that it was a basic right. Ultimately, the state must pay to provide housing. However, in the farming context, having a labour force equipped with social services amounted to a production cost on the part of farmers, and the state could not be expected to subsidize farmers’ production costs. Throughout the course of PLAAS’ research, farm dwellers responded consistently that they wanted land of their own, but that they wanted land to be made available in combination with job opportunities. Farm owners and managers expressed a view in favour of the agri-village model, but farm workers had not bought into this idea yet, as they had security concerns about the model. The clear picture that emerged from the research, when seen as a whole, was that there was a stalemate between farm owners and people living on farms. Until that stalemate was resolved, the questions surrounding tenure security seemed intractable.
Ms Crosby claimed that AgriSA accepted that there were people who were born on farms and spent their entire lives there. She submitted that it was not fair to treat someone who had spent one day on the farm in the same way as people who have been there their whole lives, as ESTA provided.
The Chairperson opened the floor to questions from the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Rural Development and Land Reform.
The Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform reiterated the question he had asked earlier about what the TAU acronym stood for.
Mr van Zyl responded that the name of the union was simply “TAU
The Chairperson told Mr van Zyl that some people present still remembered the Transvaal Agricultural Union, and they had a right to question whether the ideology and substance of the union had changed along with its name.
Mr van Zyl replied that the union now focussed on the total area of
The Chairperson told Mr van Zyl that TAU SA’s presentation had indicated that the legislative scheme was robbing farmers of agricultural land, and in some cases they had no choice but to “clean” their farms. He said that it was an unfortunate choice of words, and that when people took it upon themselves to tell the state that their legislation was not working, they needed to be careful how they did so. By saying that farmers had to “clean” their land, he was drawing a bad parallel, one that was reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It was probably that choice of words that formed the precise reason that the Deputy Minister was questioning the name of the union.
Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) submission
Thabo Manyathi, AFRA fieldworker, made a presentation focussing on the experiences of farm dwellers. He opened the presentation with a quote by Sol Plaatjie, written in 1913, which set out the dire conditions faced by farm workers at that time. Mr Manyathi argued that conditions for South African farm workers today were still the same as on that day in 1913, and that people should not be apologetic about the fact that the issue being faced by the Committee stemmed from the history of land dispossession. The issue was an urgent one, and was in need of radical political redress. He quoted an old man that he met while doing fieldwork: “[f]arms came to the people. Our great grandparents were already here when the land was ruled by Amakhosi. The Amakhosi were removed through wars between AmaZulu and the Whites, with the intention to grab our land and make it their own. The Zulus failed. That is why we are being oppressed by the whites. We do not have a say with regard to land ownership. That’s how our grandparents found themselves oppressed just as we are.” Mr Manyathi said that the quote illustrated the nature of dispossession, and how it came about.
Mr Manyathi submitted that ESTA had failed to stem evictions, as it only provided a regulatory framework for evicting people from agricultural land. The legislation provided little real protection and did little to secure rights for farm dwellers. He quoted the Nkuzi report, to the effect that close to 1 million people had been evicted from farms in the decade following 1994. Those evictions resulted in displacement, disruption of family life, loss of schooling for children and loss of livelihood. In KwaZulu Natal, there was a trend where RDP settlements were becoming the new
He explained that ESTA linked tenure to employment and other civil relations on farms, which meant that if the employment relationship ended, so too did tenure rights. In addition to formal evictions, constructive evictions were occurring in instances where farm dwellers were denied access to grazing land, or the number of livestock that they were allowed to keep was prohibitively limited. In cases such as these, when people had no choice but to leave a farm, it was asserted that they left voluntarily. In KwaZulu Natal, AFRA’s research discovered many cases of women being evicted from farms upon the deaths of their husbands. In terms of ESTA, agreements were verbal, and this led to a situation where the person in a stronger position of power, the farmer, was able to convey their own interpretation of the contract as binding. Enforcement of the legislation was weak, and there was an on-going phenomenon of the illegal impounding of livestock. Close to R1million had been made by farmers from the proceeds of selling impounded livestock of farm dwellers. Even though illegal evictions had been occurring regularly, there had been no convictions against the perpetrators.
The Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 3 of 1996 (“LTA”) applied to people whose families lived on the land before them. The LTA provided better protection than ESTA did, and offered the possibility of land transfer upon application to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. In most areas where such land transfers had occurred, there had been a massive improvement in the condition of livestock. There had been a failure on the part of the Department to process labour tenants applications lodged in 1999, before the 2000 cut-off date. Currently, some landowners were bringing legal challenges based on the fact that they did not receive Section 17 notices from government to inform them that their land was under claim, as required by the LTA. Some eligible communities in Greytown wanted to take the Department to court to compel them to serve Section 17 notices on landowners. There had been a consistent denial of labour tenant applications by farm owners, and AFRA had discovered evidence of landowners hiring lawyers to assist them to deny applications from farm dwellers to reside on the land as labour tenants.
In cases where land was restored to its occupants in terms of the LTA, that land was often unproductive and stony. This was because in most cases, people did not have a choice of which part of the claimed land they were granted. In cases where people were transferred to alternative land, there was a marked absence of post-settlement support.
Mr Manyathi claimed that the issue of “private property” was being bandied about, and this was illustrative of a perception that service provision by the state should not be allowed to occur on private land. In KwaZulu Natal, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had instituted a mechanism whereby people whose rights were being threatened were referred to a law firm in
In AFRA’s fieldwork, it became clear that various human rights abuses were regularly being perpetrated against farm workers and farm dwellers. Those abuses included physical assault, the illegal impounding of livestock and livestock rentals, denial of cultural rights, denial of visitation rights, failure to compensate workers for injuries sustained in the course of employment, and unfair deductions imposed to offset the mandatory payment of minimum wages. In other cases, people planned to be married on the land where they lived, but were prevented from doing so by the landowners. In some cases, AFRA discovered evidence of collusion between landowners and conservative rural justice system players, including police, lawyers and magistrates. A recurring phenomenon was that when farm workers lodged complaints, landowners automatically filed counter-charges. Chapter 9 Institutions had failed farm dwellers. In many cases, the police in rural areas did not seem to know that farm dwellers had rights, and were therefore useless in assisting them to enforce those rights.
Mr Manyathi said that in December 2006, a National Farm Dweller Workshop was held in Pietermaritzburg, where participants agreed on principles that should inform any new legislation governing land reform and restitution. Those principles included that: farm dwellers were a distinct group of people, with particular needs requiring targeted transformation programmes; farm dwellers should live together as families, and required protection of the right to family life and tenure rights for all household members; farm dwellers were dependent on natural resources for survival, and required secure access to agricultural land for food production; farm dwellers required exclusive real rights to land; and farm dwellers called for a moratorium on evictions.
Many farmers evicted farm dwellers in anticipation of the promulgation of ESTA, and now, with the draft Land Tenure Bill, the situation was similar. In conclusion, Mr Manyathi asserted that farm dwellers needed to be perceived of as “rural citizens”. Government had to recognise that farms were not only farm dwellers’ homes, the farms were also their land, their history, their future and their right.
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) submission
Sheldon Magardie, Regional Director Western Cape, gave a presentation of evidence from the ground on land and tenure rights for farm dwellers and workers. LHR was engaged in a Security of Farm Workers Project dealing with the rights of people living and working on farms in
Mr Magardie said that in LHR’s experience, key land tenure security issues affecting farm dwellers and workers included the fact that illegal actual and constructive evictions from farms were continuing unabated. The historical link between housing and employment on farms meant that if people lost their jobs, they often lost their homes as well. LHR was dealing with litigation brought in term of ESTA, with the objective of preventing evictions from ending in homelessness. The reality was that the Magistrates Courts and the Land Claims Court routinely granted eviction orders in the absence of alternative accommodation being made available. ESTA provided for subsidies to pay for on-site and off-site development in order to provide farm workers with long-term security of tenure, but those provisions were largely ignored. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had only used such subsidy schemes in four cases. There was a systematic failure by local government to implement an Emergency Housing Programme to plan for evictions of farm dwellers that would result in homelessness.
ESTA provided that before an eviction happened, notice of that eviction must be given to the local municipality. The municipalities’ approach had been that of Pontius Pilot – they washed their hands of it. In the majority of cases, standard form letters that were drafted for Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act 19 of 1998 eviction cases were sent to set out the responses of local government. All of these occurrences were ongoing, despite the fact that there was a constitutional obligation on the state to provide a clear plan for those living in crisis situations. The constitutional rights of access to adequate housing, shelter and security of tenure remained largely illusory in practice for millions of farm workers and dwellers on commercial farms.
There was inadequate regulatory enforcement of existing legislation, including the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 and the Department of Labour’s Sectoral Determination 13. As a result, there had been widespread violations of the rights to collective bargaining and fair labour practices. LHR had encountered several instances where people had deductions taken from their wages for to pay for the provision of housing on the farms where they worked. Poor housing conditions and lack of access to basic services on farms violated the constitutional rights to equality and dignity of farm dwellers and workers. On some farms visited by LHR, the housing provided for farm dwellers and workers was not fit for animals to live in. The provision of electricity was more the exception than the rule, and in many cases, no sanitation or clean water was made available.
Farm workers were particularly vulnerable to occupational hazards, and there was a significant failure of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA) compensation system to deal with compensation claims by farm workers who were injured or disabled in occupational accidents. Applications for compensation made in terms of COIDA were being sent into a literal black hole. In cases where people had suffered serious accidents, they did not receive response to their claims for up to five years.
Mr Magardie canvassed some of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing legislation regarding farm dwellers and workers. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had not implemented the provisions of ESTA and LTA on subsidies for long-term security of tenure in the form of off-site and on-site developments. ESTA and LTA were effectively operating not to provide substantive protection of rights, but to evict people from farms. In many cases of eviction litigation, the technical requirements had been complied with and ESTA was actually facilitating evictions. Currently, there was no legislative requirement for monitoring and data capturing of eviction statistics by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. That made it difficult to determine what major problems were being faced regarding the legislation. Because the provisions of ESTA and LTA were inextricably linked to continued employment on farms, farm dwellers’ vulnerability was compounded in both no-fault and fault-based dismissals.
In most cases, evictions were of large groups of families. 48% of the cases sent to the Land Claims Court for confirmation originated in the
Mr Magardie concluded with some recommendations. The provisions of the Draft Land Tenure Security Bill that increased the legal threshold for evictions leading to homelessness had to be defended. In terms of the Bill, there had to be consultation, and an eviction order should not be granted if it would lead to homelessness or the violation of other human rights. Those provisions were based on the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and had to be defended by the Committee.
He submitted that all spheres of government must plan for and respond to the emergency housing needs of those who had been evicted from farms without suitable alternative accommodation. It simply was not good enough for the local municipality to merely file the notice of eviction upon receipt. The Department of Housing and Human Settlements had developed a plan in this respect, but municipalities failed to make use of it. There had to be allocation of financial and human resources to fully enforce labour legislation on farms. Further, there was an urgent need for the comprehensive reassessment of the Department of Labour’s Sectoral Determination 13, on standards of housing and working conditions on farms. Sectoral Determination 13 currently stated that deductions from salaries for housing could only be made where the standard of housing was “adequate”, but it needed to set out specific standards to prescribe what that meant for accommodation.
Nkuzi Development Association submission
Joe Shivambu, Project Officer at Nkuzi, an organisation dealing with issues of land reform, made a presentation with a specific focus on a case study. The case study revolved around Domingo Msimango, an elderly lady who was born and brought up on farm near Magaliesburg. Her parents worked on the farm as labour tenants who did not earn a salary. When they passed on, she and her siblings moved to a neighbouring farm to stay with their aunt. On that farm, she was forced to work at an early age as a domestic worker, as her aunt could not afford to send her to school. While working on that farm for a Mr Vorster, she met Anthony Sithole who worked on a nearby farm. They were married, and Mr Vorster hired her husband to look after livestock on the farm. When he became sick and started taking days off from work, he was unfairly fired for absenteeism. Although he pleaded to be reinstated, he was refused. Domingo continued working for the farmer, and became the sole breadwinner for her husband and their three children.
When Anthony passed on in 2004, Domingo requested to bury him on the farm, but was refused by the farmer, who did not even assist with the burial costs of the man who had worked for him for over 30 years. Soon after her husband’s death, Domingo discovered that she was pregnant, and she started missing days of work. When she reported her pregnancy to the farmer’s wife, she was taken to the farmer’s family doctor. At the doctor, she was forced to undergo an abortion without her knowledge or consent. Furthermore, she was tested for HIV, also without her knowledge or consent. When she returned to the farm, she was told that she could no longer work for the farmer’s family because she was HIV positive. She noticed at the end of the month that R200 was deducted from her salary for medical expenses.
The farmer attempted to evict her from the dwelling where she lived on the farm, but she refused to move out. She reported the matter to a local councillor who referred her to Nkuzi. Nkuzi referred the matter to the office of the South African Human Rights Commission. While Nkuzi was attempting to assist her, the landowner illegally demolished the dwelling where she had been staying with her children with a bulldozer, and all of the family’s belongings were destroyed.
After visiting the site, Nkuzi realised that it was more than an illegal eviction case. They reported it to the
Mr Shivambu said that the case study raised policy issues about tenure and human rights for farm workers. Farm dweller’s tenure rights were not secure, and this was aggravated by the fact that women and children were not granted independent rights. The legislation was weak with regard to burial rights, which were routinely denied. There was a lack of information available to farm dwellers, who often did not know their rights or where to go to seek help when threatened with eviction or other violations of human rights. There was a problem with prompt legal services. Even though the case was won, it illustrated that if the right legal representatives were not secured, those who were illegally evicted, could be defeated when raising legal challenges. Landowners were not being held accountable in cases of legal evictions, and the SAPS were failing to give the offence the attention it deserved. The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS was still a major challenge for farm dwellers, and there was a lack of education about it. The rights of farm dwellers were still being reduced to the employment relationship, whereby once the relationship ended, they would be evicted. The Chairperson asked how many more such cases there had to be before real change was effected.
Land Access Movement of
Constance Mogale, Executive Director, made a presentation for LAMOSA, an independent federation of rural community-based organisations advocating for land and agrarian rights and substantive democracy. She presented two case studies to illustrate the issues being faced by farm workers and farm dwellers in the rural areas of
In the first case study, concerning the Brakspruit Communal Property Association, a community of 110 registered beneficiary households in the
Ms Mogale related the second case study, involving Mrs Radebe, a farm dweller and Mr Wurth, the farmer. Mrs Radebe was 59 years old and lived on a farm in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District. She had no income, no access to basic services, and no electricity or sanitation. She was allowed permission to stay on the farm, under conditions set out in a contract, and used a borehole to provide water to grow vegetables for her own consumption. The contract required her to take care of the farm without any income, while the farmer stayed elsewhere. Mrs Radebe approached the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform for assistance in acquiring tenure rights and basis services. Neither the municipality nor ESKOM could service the farm without the prior consent of the legal owner, so she was denied access to basic services. Mrs Radebe and her extended family did not have any legal rights to the land. In LAMOSA’s view, the Land Tenure Bill, if enacted, would assist them in this regard.
Ms Mogale stated that people should not be evicted from agricultural land without being provided with somewhere else to go. In practice, local municipalities were referring needy people to structures that they could not practically access. There had not been a single successful case of on-site settlement in the areas where LAMOSA worked. There had to be immediate evaluation of progress regarding the service of notices on government, as evictions and displacement continued regardless of such service. She said that there had to be implementation of other existing laws related to land acquired for land reform processes, such as the Land Title Adjustment Act 111 of 1993.
Local municipalities needed to have their capacity developed so that they could successfully implement land and rural development processes, as provided by the legislation. There was a need for proactive application of tenure rights for farm dwellers who lived on farms. Government should not wait for tension to build up before intervening.
In conclusion, Ms Mogale said LAMOSA hoped that government would continue to open space for continuous dialogue and ongoing engagement about alternative tenure systems. LAMOSA was committed to supporting the work of any body that aimed to advance the rights of people living in the rural areas, and would continue to challenge any practice that perpetuated class discrimination and the denial of rights. She finished her presentation with a quote from the Freedom Charter: “The land shall be shared among those who work it! Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger; The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers.” Ms Mogale said that poverty was everyone’s problem, but that through appropriate land and agrarian reform, the poor could become part of the solution.
The Chairperson said that the Freedom Charter was still as relevant today as when it was drafted in 1955, and the ANC government was “still on course” to fulfil its stated objectives. He remarked that it was a pity that there was no one present from the Commission for Gender Equality. The issues that were being raised by the various presenters were manifold, and inter-related. To find solutions, representatives from the Departments of Education, Health, Labour, and ESKOM, amongst others, should be involved. He said that he knew that in some cases, district surgeons colluded with farmers when workers were injured on the farms, and gave an example of a lady who fell from a tree while working who was certified fit to work even thought she was unable to walk. The Chairperson opened the floor for discussion.
Ms Steyn (DA) put it to Lawyers for Human Rights that the Portfolio Committee did not have the statistics that were needed to make the decisions that they needed to make, and that it would greatly assist the Committee if they had such statistics. She put it to the NGOs who made submissions that on the question of protecting the right to family life, one of the issues that she had to deal with as a farm owner was the closure of schools. She said that government needed to consider what the solution for that problem was, and whether farm schools should be re-opened. When families of farm workers and farm dwellers engaged in fights, farmers were put in a difficult situation. Government could not take sides in situations where a husband or wife moved off the farm as a result of a domestic dispute. Farmers did not know how to handle such complex issues, and needed to be assisted by government.
Ms Mkhize, (ANC), said she knew that in her constituency in
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked Mr Shivambu from Nkuzi what had happened with relation to Mrs Msimango, the woman who was subjected to compelled termination of pregnancy and HIV-testing. She asked Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) why there was a problem with the filing of eviction notices. She also wanted to know to what extent the Department of Labour was assisting with enforcement of existing labour legislation.
Ms November (ANC) asked what government could do to strengthen land legislation like ESTA so that it had teeth. She remarked that the procedures took a long time, and that government needed to ensure that the redress of complaints did not take an interminable amount of time.
An ANC member commented that in some cases, farmers took advantage of farm dwellers and farm workers because those vulnerable groups were not aware of the laws that existed to protect them. She said that maybe LHR and other groups should work together with local government to educate farm workers and farm dwellers with regard to their rights. If relationships between farmers and government, including additional role players such as LHR could communicate effectively, it should not be that difficult to address the issues and come to tangible agreements. She asked what AFRA proposed that government should do about the restoration of unproductive land, and remarked that some of the land that the government had purchased from white farmers was unproductive, and was lying fallow.
The Chairperson stated that the Portfolio Committee had gone through a process with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that had some relevance to the issues at stake. He re-emphasised the fact that those issues were inter-related and should be met by various government departments in collaboration with one another. The issue of land reform and farm dwellers’ rights was urgent, and needed to be addressed as soon as possible. He remarked that the resolutions that were made at the 2010 National Farm Workers Summit had a direct bearing on the issues that were being discussed at the Portfolio Committee meeting.
Mr Nexi said that not all farmers were the same. Some farmers respected the human rights of their workers while others treated them as sub-human. The former group of farmers should make up a part of the South African economy while the latter group belonged in prison. He said that he was disturbed that there had been such a slow response on the part of the Department of Labour. It was problematic that the case studies referred to by LAMOSA had been reported to the Department and were met with a delayed reaction. Government claimed that they were there to support the dispossessed, but when disadvantaged people cried out for help, there was a dragging of feet. In practice, when emergency cases arose and people were evicted with nowhere to go, government was not playing the role it should be. The NGOs who made submissions to the Department were willing and able to help the Department to achieve its objectives, and this assistance should be utilised.
The Chairperson remarked that there was always talk of “post-settlement support” but never of “pre-settlement support”. Pre-settlement support was essential, as engaging in farming was business, and people needed to be equipped and trained to engage in that business. He said that in his experience, black farmers were thrown into the deep end and did not get any assistance at all.
The Chairperson opened the floor to the Departments of Labour and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and to give inputs and responses.
Department of Rural Development submission
Mr M Shabane (ANC), Director-General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform said that the information related by Mr Kgobokoe was coming to his knowledge for the first time. He said it was clear that there was a lot of talk and little consensus, both between government and organised agriculture and between government and civil society. He said that the relationship between government and organised agriculture was probably better than the relationship between government and NGOs. The Department was well aware of post-settlement issues. The Ministers were acutely aware of an urgency for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to liaise with each other.
An ANC member asked what would need to happen before the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries could present to the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Shivambu from Nkuzi said that the organisation was currently working together with LHR. Mr Magardie from LHR said that if labour rights were being enforced according to the legislation, LHR would not be experiencing so many complaints. Currently, the organisation was dealing with between 70 and 80 litigation matters dealing with evictions. In all of those cases, municipalities had not done anything but write a letter. In most cases, there was no response – the notice of eviction was served on the municipality and then the landowner was entitled to serve an eviction notice. On issues of consensus and meaningful engagement with government, Mr Magardie said that LHR had tried to engage with government, with limited success. He said that when ESTA has passed, there was a legislative intention behind the requirement of serving notices on the municipality and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. A recent judgment by Geldenhuys J held that presumably, the intention was to ensure that the government would investigate the circumstances to find out what the situation on the ground was. In reality, LHR’s attempts made to engage with government have become futile. LHR found itself compelled to bring litigation against organs of state in the Cape Winelands, who, in LHR’s view, were failing to live up to their constitutional obligations.
Mr Manyathi addressed the question of schools for farm dweller’s children and said that in some cases, government had provided bikes for school children to get to school. Access to schooling in the rural areas was an ongoing cause for concern. With regard to Ms Steyn’s question about family feuds, he said that there was a need to separate such family feuds from the loss of a home or of land, as the two were separate issues. In an urban setting, if there was a family dispute, it did not result in the loss of one’s home. Regarding the fact that unproductive land was being granted to the dispossessed, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had the power to change this situation. He said that government needed to take into consideration the fact that people had emotional attachments to the land upon which they had lived for a long time. He said that not all farmers were bad, but it was wrong when they kept quiet in the face of abuses against farm workers and dwellers. [Audio recording resumed]
Mr M Kgobokoe, Acting Chief Director: Sector Capacity Development and National Extension Support Services, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that the Department’s input was based on progress about the implementation of resolutions made at the National Farm Workers’ Summit of 2010, held at the Western Cape where 1 500 attendees were vulnerable workers, and there were participants from the farming community and various workers’ unions. The objectives of the summit were to communicate the message that government was committed to prioritising the interests of the poor, and to develop a common programme, with workers’ participation, for clear goals and tasks, as well as monitoring and evaluation. The
The expected outcomes of the
1. Social services focussing on adequate housing, provision of farm schools, mobile clinics and HIV and AIDS programmes, transport, water and electricity, communications infrastructure and access to social grants;
2. Working conditions, with a focus on access to organising and unionisation, determination of working hours and job security;
3. Security tenure, including issues of illegal immigrants, racism and abuse, as well as the access to land by land owners;
4. Empowerment of vulnerable workers, including employment schemes and training going beyond farm labour life; and
5. Various related matters, such as the establishment of a database for all farms in the country, as well as a hotline for reporting problems.
Mr Kgobokoe reported on progress achieved since the meeting. The Steering Committee that organised the
▪ Social determinants for health;
▪ Working conditions;
▪ Security of tenure; and
▪ Training and empowerment of vulnerable workers.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was expected to develop a policy framework for the establishment of vulnerable workers support structures at national, provincial and local levels. There was a need for post-Summit events at national, provincial and local levels to commit to stakeholders to formulating programmes of action and to develop delivery agreements between them. Some Departments had yet to nominate officials to serve on the Delivery Forum, including the Departments of Basic Education and Social Development. The Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the
Surplus Peoples’ Project (SPP) submission
Ricardo Jacobs, Research and Advocacy Coordinator, said that the starting point for the Committee to consider was that farm workers and dwellers were the rightful owners of the land, and should be granted the right own the land, as well as the rights to live and work on the land. He said that agrarian reform was a basic human right, and should form the cornerstone for transforming rural relations. Government needed to phrase the question of rights and security of tenure within the prevailing economic context. The question of land ownership and control in the rural economy determined what occurred in the rural areas. Land ownership was only one aspect of the extreme inequality in
There had been significant changes in the agricultural sector, especially with regard to the restructuring of commercial agriculture that had occurred since 1994. Rural development and reform needed to be seen in the light of the restructuring of commercial agriculture. Agricultural policies were undermining the land reform project. The profit motive in commercial agriculture was the central feature driving the industry, and human rights and tenure issues were being treated as subsidiary to profit. There was land reform and change without democratisation of the rural areas. Farm workers and dwellers were treated as “subjects” instead of “citizens” with rights, and were not given access to basic services and civil and political rights. The most important feature of commercial agriculture had been the consolidation of concentrated land ownership. The fact that Mr van Zyl said that farmers felt they had to “clean” their farms was symptomatic of the prevalent economic logic in
Farming for profit was leaving more people food-insecure and lowering living standards of the poor, while the rate of exploitation of labour had intensified. Although wages had seemingly increased, the unit cost of labour on farms had actually declined over time. The combination of oppression by farmers, the weak legislative framework and changing conditions in agriculture led to a situation where human rights were being violated. Farm workers’ human rights were being viewed separately from issues of agrarian reform, while the two issues need to be dealt with together. The conditions faced by farm workers needed to be located in the overall problem of land inequality. He said that the government seemed to be tacitly siding with white agrarian capital to the detriment of other sectors of society.
Mr Jacobs questioned the figure of 30% as the governmental target for the total amount of South African land to be redistributed, and said that it seemed to be an arbitrary figure. The government was constrained by the property clause in Section 25 of the Constitution, and there was a need to examine the fundamental basis upon which it was premised. The protection of the right to private property by Section 25 legitimised the dispossession of farm workers and dwellers, and failing to address that fact gave credence to the continued ownership of the majority of South African farmland by white farmers.
Many people living in the commercial farming areas of
Farm workers and dwellers at the 2005 Land Summit told government that it should proactively acquire land for the creation of sustainable settlements. AgriSA told government at that
Citrusdal Plaaswerkers Forum submission
Petros Brink, a farm worker and representative from the Citrusdal Plaaswerkers Forum, addressed the Committee on the reasons for the Right to Agrarian Reform and Food Sovereignty Campaign. The Campaign consisted of farm workers and farm dwellers, small-scale farmers and landless people in the
In the South African farming districts, abuses were still rife and the conditions were for workers were harsh. People were subjected to abuse and assault, and there were many cases where people were evicted without a court order. On a farm in Middelpos, children younger than 15 were forced to work, and the dop system was still in use. That matter had been reported to the Department of Labour, and Mr Brink hoped that the Department would respond soon. The owner of the farm threatened to shoot representatives of the Citrusdal Plaaswerkers Forum if they went on to the farm to organise workers.
The responsible state Departments and the SAPS were failing to implement and protect the rights of farm workers and dwellers, and this could be attributed to unequal power relations, greed and some corrupt relationships between farmers and state officials. When labour inspectors visited commercial farms, they only spoke to farmers to ensure that labour legislation was being implemented, and not to the workers themselves. Mr Brink said that the issues that he was raising were real, and that he was not making generalisations. The chemical products that were used on industrial farms had a negative impact on the health of farm workers and on nature. There was a significant need for alternative forms of farming to enhance food security, as the dominant method of farming resulted in the exploitation and abuse of farm workers in the quest for profit. In Citrusdal, farm workers were suffering from skin diseases, which could probably be attributed to the use of pesticides on citrus farms.
On the farms, there was a problematic class differentiation between local and immigrant farm workers. People came from other African countries to work on farms in
The minimum wage for work on farms was currently R317 a week, and it was impossible to break the cycle of poverty with that type of pay. ESTA was being used to regulate evictions, and was effectively assisting farmers to evict people. The imbalanced power relations and the impact of inequality on farm workers and dwellers should not be underestimated. Section 25 of the Constitution contributed to inequality, and made it difficult for farm workers and dwellers to organise themselves. Unions attempting to do so were routinely denied access to the farms.
The Freedom Charter provided for farm workers to own the land they worked on, but Section 25 of the Constitution created an injustice, whereby white commercial farmers were allowed to own land that rightfully belonged to workers. The property clause should be removed from the Constitution and the stolen wealth of the land should be restored to the people who worked it. If the government did not take steps to redistribute the land and advance social justice and equality, the people would organise themselves and fight until they owned the land. The 30% target set for redistribution of the land was insufficient, and should be set much higher.
The Chairperson remarked that Women on Farms Project (WFP) and Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) were not in attendance to make submissions about the rights of women on farms and livelihood security for farm workers. He noted that COSATU was not at the meeting, and asked the representative from Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) to send a message to COSATU that its guidance was required with regard to the issues being discussed.
Food and Allied Workers
Mr Galfieldien Benjamin asked the Portfolio Committee to act as the champion of farm workers. He agreed with many of the issues as put forward by SPP and the Citrusdal Plaasworkers’ Forum. He said that the 2010
ESTA merely provided a procedural framework for removing people from farms, but when people were destitute, they needed action, not procedures. Government needed to take concrete steps to stop practices that ran contrary to transformation. Farm workers had to be granted the right to own the land upon which they worked. Children of farm workers and dwellers should be granted the ability to register rights in their names.
The Draft Land Tenure Bill’s definition of “land” failed to consider agricultural land, and only referred to commercial farmland, meaning that some land that was not currently in use was excluded. In most cases, security of tenure and conditions of employment on farms were linked. A second or third generation farm worker needed a guarantee that he could continue living in his house, even after being dismissed, whether or not he was at fault. The current system meant that farmers were allowed to act as their own judge and jury, and to impose their own conditions on workers without effective oversight by government. Losing a job and losing the right to live in one’s home should be two different processes, and to allow the two to be linked was “backwards”.
He said that not all farmers were bad, and that some farmers treated their workers well while others were rogues. The Portfolio Committee should strive to protect farm workers from those rogues, and government should “name and shame” the farmers who ill-treated the people who worked to feed the nation. Government should look at whom the land really belonged to, and should work together with NGOs and trade unions to advance the human rights of farm workers. Currently, it was very difficult for farmers to access farmers in order to speak to workers. Government should also engage with farmers, even those who walked out along with AgriSA at the
He said that the problems being faced by the Committee were emotive ones, but they needed to be resolved in favour of farm workers.
The Chairperson opened the floor to questions and comments. He said that the Committee had erred in favour of being kind, in that Mr Kgobokoe from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was allowed to leave the meeting early to meet another commitment. The Chairperson said that the FAWU representative could answer questions pertaining to the Vulnerable Workers’
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) complained that the presentation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had referred the members to the Department’s website for vital information that the Committee needed. She wanted to know if and to what extent the resolutions from the Vulnerable Workers’
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila also said that the Department of Labour should have been present to participate in the meeting to tell the Committee how they were assisting farm workers and farm dwellers. She said that she had also been informed by her constituency that when labour inspectors visited farms, they only approached farmers for information about working conditions on the farms, instead of the people who reported labour law abuses. That was a problem, because vulnerable workers depended on the Department of Labour to assist them.
Ms Phaliso (ANC) said that she had prepared a question for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. She said that FAWU should not be expected to answer questions on behalf of the Department, and that it was unfortunate that Mr Kgobokoe had left the meeting early.
Ms Steyn (DA) asked the last three presenters who had made submissions to tell her that they did not want her, as a white farmer in
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) raised a point of order. She said that while it was true that Ms Steyn was a farmer, she was not at the meeting in a representative capacity for farmers. She was a member of Parliament, and should not be responding to presentations on behalf of farmers. If she wanted to relay what was said about farmers at the Committee meeting to the wider farming community, she was free to do that.
Ms Steyn responded that she merely wanted to know if the submissions made by the last three presenters were truly reflective of what farm workers wanted. She asked whether that was the genuine feeling on the land, and if those presenters spoke for all farm workers, or if they were relating their personal views. She asked if farm workers really wanted the land. There was some disturbance within the Committee, with several members replying in the affirmative.
Ms N November (ANC) said that all three of the presenters had taken pains to express the view that not all farmers were bad.
Ms E Nyalungu (ANC) asked SPP what progress had been made since the 2005 Land Summit, and if there were any signs of change brought about by the resolutions made at that
Mr S Abrams (ANC) agreed that farm workers were a “vulnerable species”, and that a lot needed to be done to improve their lot. He asked Mr Jacobs from SPP whether it was fair to expect farmers to invest money in farming without the expectation of making a profit. He asked Mr Jacobs whether the goal should be the implementation of a subsistence farming system, and said that if that was the goal, agriculture would not be making any contribution in terms of taxes, the earning of foreign exchange or employment opportunities. On the issue of championing farm workers’ rights, he informed his “friends” that when there was any abuse of rights, there were structures available to farm workers. Those structures included municipal councillors, and provincial and national public representatives that were available to the people at all times. There was a need to publicise the fact that MPs and members of the NCOP had offices in different areas of the country, and that farm workers and dwellers did have places to go to have their needs addressed. Mr Abrams said that in a significant number of instances of land reform schemes whereby farmland was given to workers, those farms collapsed. He said that there was a need to match ideals with practicality. Giving farmland to workers meant that they were being given many other responsibilities along with that land.
The Chairperson interrupted Mr Abrams, and said that he had been absent for the meeting for most of the day, and was trying to make up for his absence. Mr Abrams responded that he had been attending another Committee meeting that morning.
Mr Jacobs, SPP, said that he had not suggested that white people should be chased into the sea. Rather, land ownership patterns should be restructured to reflect the demographic makeup of
Some white-owned commercial farms also collapsed, but that scenario was not often referred to in the public discourse. He wondered if that was indicative of the idea that black people were incompetent. He said that government needed to rethink the concept of “success”. Agriculture needed to be restructured to make entry into the agricultural industry easier. Land reform needed to happen before people lost faith in the institutions of power. The alternative was a violent and chaotic process of land reform, and no one wanted that. In order to achieve true reconciliation, it had to be based on justice and the equitable distribution of resources. Mr Brink, from the Citrusdaal Plaaswerker’s Forum indicated his approval of what Mr Jacobs said.
The FAWU representative replied to Ms Steyn’s question by agreeing what Mr Jacobs had said. He said that all people in
The Chairperson said that he thought that SPP had addressed Ms Steyn’s question, and suggested that she needed a copy of the Freedom Charter, which stated that
He told Mr Shabane, the Director General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, that the reason the Committee was running around in circles was because there was no visible impact on the people who were asking to have a share in the land. He said that the approach taken by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, whereby 1 407 units of land were handed over to communities, and only 10% of that land was being used productively. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was not enthusiastic about joining the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in the assisting the operations on those farms that were redistributed to ensure food security and skills development.
The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee, in attempting to work with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was trying to collectively impress upon government Departments that the Committee was engaging in effective oversight. One of the reasons there was no visible impact on the redistribution of land was because the redistributed land was not productive. That made many people angry.
The ANC was supposed to be the leader of society, through the state, and the state needed to guide white commercial farmers. There was no viable programme in place between white commercial farmers and the state to ensure that the working conditions of farm workers were addressed.
The Chairperson said that Mr Brink, of the Citrusdaal Plaaswerkers’ Forum, had mentioned an important matter, and that was that the growing anger of farm workers needed to be taken into account. He said that the reason that farm prisons had been banned was because of the human rights abuses that were occurring in that context. The Committee needed to consider how it could put all hands on deck to achieve change, because in the new
The Chairperson said that Mr Gwede Mantashe had told AgriSA that he was willing to facilitate an agreement between farmers, farmers unions and farm workers to ensure fair working conditions for farm workers. The casualisation of farm work and seasonal work was problematic, because when the season was over, farm workers had no way of providing for their families. The Committee was looking for a way to facilitate solutions, and not to engage in fights. The Committee should follow the approach set out in the Freedom Charter, and needed to force society to look at the most vulnerable people in society. It was not good enough to require that investors made profit on commercial farms. Nobody denied that
In conclusion, the Chairperson told the delegates to be as emotional as possible with regard to white commercial farmers, and said that even though he did not agree with everything they said, he defended their right to freedom of speech. He said that the political parties in
The Chairperson told Mr Shabane that if he did not arrange for Mrs Radebe to receive ownership of that farm by June of 2011, he would recommend to the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform that he lose his job. He said that he saw no reason why the Committee could not help that mother, and that the story was terrible, one that should never be heard by the Committee again. The Chairperson told Mr Shabane that he considered him to have made a public undertaking to help Mrs Radebe. Mr Shabane expressed that he wanted to make an input on behalf of the Land Rights Management Facility, but the Chairperson said that the input should be shelved for the time being.
To agree on the steps going forward, the Chairperson said that the Committee would review the recordings of the meeting in order to formulate a draft report of the commitments that had been made that day for circulation to all parties who had engaged in discussions at the meeting. The roles of the various stakeholders would be identified, as would the specific issues that had been raised and what practical steps needed to be taken. He said that he wanted to avoid forming a multitude of structures, and that he wanted people to do what was right within those structures that were already in existence. People should not come to meetings talking about what they were supposed to talk about at previous meetings. Rather, they needed to act on what was decided.
The Committee would divide issues raised at the meeting into short-term, medium-term and long-term issues, as this would allow the various Departments represented by the Portfolio Committee to walk in step. Short-term issues should be attended to on an urgent basis, medium-term issues required strategic planning, and long-term issues, such as land tenure. The only way to address land tenure problems that were raised was for the Committee to lead boldly, so that the various stakeholders would be led to an amicable solution on land tenure issues.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had to demonstrate, by way of its budget, that tangible steps were being taken to protect vulnerable farm workers and farm dwellers. The Chairperson told Mr Shabane that the Committee did not feel comfortable with his Land Rights Management Facility, because it was only engaging in court cases. He noted that Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) were trying to protect the rights of vulnerable people, and were increasingly being forced to litigate against government, because of the lack of assistance from government’s side. LHR was forced to be adversarial because some people in government were not playing the game that they were employed to play. The Facility was inadequate, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform assist the Committee to lead from the front. The 1 407 land units that had been redistributed needed to be supported by a long-term plan. The issues of farm workers’ and farm dwellers’ rights needed to be addressed in practice in a visible manner.
The Chairperson addressed the FAWU representative by agreeing that currently, farm workers were not being allowed to organise themselves into trade unions. There had to be a way that they could be legally organised, in order for workers to be their own liberators. The Committee needed to work together with trade unions in order to take the process of unionisation forward. FAWU had an important role to play in that regard. The Committee was willing to be the champion of farm workers, but it needed assistance from the unions.
The Chairperson remarked that by addressing individual people, he was concluding the meeting in an unusual fashion, but that he was doing so deliberately. He addressed Mr Jacobs of SPP by saying that NGOs needed to work together in a spirit of collaboration. The case studies presented to the Committee indicated that NGOs were working independently, in isolated corners. NGOs needed to find a way, together with the Department, to meet with and assist one another and the government. Government would help to facilitate a meeting between NGOs and the relevant government Departments. By working together, NGOs would be assisting government to achieve the tasks it was faced with.
The Chairperson addressed AgriSA, and noted that they were better organised than the Portfolio Committee. He said that the Committee would like to have access to the information held by AgriSA. AgriSA and TAU had offered to support independent research on the number of evictions and displacements in
The Chairperson addressed Mr Brink, from the Citrusdaal Plaaswerkers’ Forum with regard to Section 25 of the Constitution – the property clause – and recommended that people read a book entitled The Evolution of the ANC Economic Policy. There was a need to understand what the clause entailed, and why it was included in the Constitution. AgriSA and TAU had both said that expropriation had been happening for many years in
The meeting was adjourned.
- The Surplus People Project (SPP) submission
- Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA) submission
- Nkuzi Case Study: Domingo Msimango
- Statement by Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries at Stakeholder Meeting on Land & Tenure Rights for Farm Dwellers
- TAU SA submission: Land & Tenure Rights for Farm Dwellers & Workers: Evidence from the ground
- Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) Security of Farmworkers Project: Land and Tenure Rights for Farm Dwellers and Workers: Evidence f
- Association for Rural Development (AFRA): Forgotten Citizens: A Case for Farm Dwellers
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
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