National Evictions Survey: Nkuzi Development Association & Social Surveys Africa briefing

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LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE 14 September 2005 NATIONAL EVICTION SURVEY: NKUZI DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION BRIEFING Chairperson: Reverend P Moatshe (ANC) Documents handed out: National Evictions Survey: PowerPoint presentation SUMMARY The Committee was briefed on a draft study done by Nkuzi Development Association and Social Surveys Africa on the extent, nature and impact of evictions from farms. Between 1984 and 2004, about 4.18 million people had been displaced, and about 1.7 million of these had been evicted. Only 1% of these displacements had involved a legal process. Most evictions occurred during times of political uncertainty and trade liberalisation, and times of drought. The vast majority of evictees were black South Africans, with children and women being the most vulnerable. A lack of information and access to legal help was a great problem. In the discussion that followed, Members were urged not to politicise the racial issues raised, but to focus on finding solutions. Some Members requested a provincial breakdown of the statistics in the final report, but the researchers said this would mean considerably more work for a number of reasons. The Committee agreed that a follow-up meeting was needed, possibly incorporating input from the Human Rights Commission that had previously raised many of the same issues. MINUTES National Evictions Survey briefing Mr Mark Wegerif, Nkuzi Development Association Programme Manager: Policy and Research, and Ms Irma Grundling, Social Surveys Africa Director and Senior Statistician, presented the PowerPoint briefing. They reported that according to the 2001 census figures, millions of black South Africans still lived on white-owned farms. They faced numerous human rights abuses, of which eviction was one. Despite interventions by the Department of Land and Agriculture, evictions were ongoing. There was very little accurate information available, but reliable data was essential for legislative change. They briefed the Committee on the methodology employed during the study as well as some of its findings. Between 1984 and 2004, a total of about 4.18 million people had been displaced from farms. About 1.7 million of these had been evicted. Only 1% of these displacements had involved a legal process. Most evictions occurred during times of political uncertainty and trade liberalisation (in 1994, 1997 and 2003) and times of drought (in 1984). The vast majority of evictees were black South Africans, with children and women being the most vulnerable. Those affected were not transient workers but had long histories on the land. About 41% had stayed on the farms for more than 15 years. While two-thirds of evictees had wanted assistance (mostly legal) at the time of their eviction, 82% had not known where to find it. It was clear that lack of information was a great problem. The presenters made clear that they wanted to give a balanced view of the situation. Farmers’ perspectives were important in the search for solutions. Some of the main factors that led to the reduction in the work force on farms included drought, deregulation, international competition and minimum wage legislation. People who were not working on the farm were seen as a security risk. There was no effective programme in place to limit the scale of evictions or to ensure viable settlements for those displaced. Urgent policy and programme steps were needed to reverse the trend and to establish new relations in commercial farming areas. Discussion Mr G Krumbock (DA) noted that the report was a comprehensive representation of known problems in agriculture industry. Many farmers felt that they were under economic threat, and also by the possibility of land claims. Farmers sometimes had no choice but to evict their workers. The Chairperson pointed out that politicians were the ones who had to come up with solutions. The presentation indicated the areas that needed to be addressed. Since evictions were continuing, it was clear that there were still gaps in the legislation. Mr L van Rooyen (ANC) felt the idea that the agriculture industry was under threat was a misconception. Many farmers still enjoyed a very high standard of living. Mr A Watson (DA) responded that not all farmers were wealthy. There should be clarity regarding the distinction between ‘displaced’ and ‘evicted’, as the latter had very negative connotations. While those farmworkers who were ‘evicted’ suffered, farmers as business people also suffered. He was aware of farmers who as a result of economic pressures, had had to reduce their labour force. These workers had been ‘retrenched’, not ‘evicted’. He acknowledged that there were also many ‘unscrupulous’ landowners who, once it became clear that laws restricting movement would be phased out (in the late 1980s and early 1990s), had started the practice of ‘shack farming’. Those farmers were indeed guilty of infringing upon the rights of workers. Ms B Dlulane (ANC) commented that farm evictions were a thorny issue. The ongoing evictions indicated that something was ‘still not right in South Africa’. She urged Members not to politicise the matter unduly. Mr R Tau (ANC) felt that the presentation was a true reflection of race relations in South Africa. The issues around farm evictions were not only economic but also social. How did one go about assisting evictd skilled workers in their relocation? Politicising these issues would be of no use. He proposed that the Committee should note the findings of the survey but engage with the final report more thoroughly. Mr Wegerif said that while Nkuzi could not give solutions, it could contribute ideas to the discussion. There would be a conference regarding farm tenure issues on 26 and 27 October 2005. The Committee would be invited since its input would be valuable. He acknowledged that Section 26 (3) of the Constitution protected the rights of farmworkers. Nevertheless, many farmworkers were part of a largely ignored constituency because they were situated in isolated rural areas. There were social, political and economic issues to be considered. These issues should not undermine each other. Regarding the perceived economic pressure on farmers, the 1993/ 2002 census had indicated that although there had been a drop in the number of farms, there had been an increase in income and profit. Although some farmers were experiencing problems, many had adapted very well to the changes in legislation. He pointed out that 4% of the farms in South Africa produced 50% of the value attached to farming. Land reform was happening very slowly and evictions were ongoing forms of land dispossession. The survey had not specifically looked at shack farming. It focused on farm and not municipality evictions. He agreed that ‘eviction’ was often misunderstood, as many evictions were justified. Ms Grundling added that while some evictions were justified, the process followed was often not in line with legislation. While many farmers blatantly disregarded legislation, many others were ignorant of the law. Mr Wegerif assured the Committee that the report did not exaggerate statistics. In the vast majority of cases, no proper procedures were followed and evictions were accompanied by abuse. In cases of retrenchment and redundancy, people were not only dismissed from their jobs but also forcibly removed from their homes. Pro-active solutions, that would afford security of tenure, were needed Mr Van Rooyen said that in the final report, a provincial breakdown would be useful. He also wanted to know whether the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs had a budget to support the evicted. Mr Wegerif said that although the researchers had great confidence in their statistics, a provincial breakdown would require more work. Ms Grundling concurred that this task was complicated by the fact that many evictees had moved to different provinces in search of work. The Department of Land and Agriculture had no budget for the Extension of Tenure Act. The Chairperson proposed a follow up meeting to consider what should be done regarding the issues raised. Mr F Adams (NNP) suggested that since the Human Rights Commission had raised many of the same issues, all parties concerned should meet to further discuss the matter. Mr Tau called for a slot in the National Assembly schedule for a snap debate of the matter. Committee Clerk’s minutes The Committee Clerk’s minutes of 17 May 2005 were then adopted without discussion. The meeting was adjourned.


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