MANGALISO KHUBEKA, a
member of the Tenure Security Co-ordinating Committee, which is the
KwaZulu-Natal branch of the Landless People’s Movement, talks about the
hardships of living on a farm.
My first memory of land
issues was a long time ago when white and black farmers were evicting people
from farms. Mostly it was white farmers because white farmers owned most of the
farms, and still they own them.
After those first
evictions, there were then evictions at our place at Ingogo. As the community
saw what was happening, we grouped together and stopped that eviction and
ordered the farmer to take those people who were evicted back because they had
no other place to stay, and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) says
that if a farmer evicts someone, he must give the person an alternative place to
And those people were
brought back. But then the farmer evicted them again because that day the farmer
called the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist with the
eviction and the people could not stop that one. The people were dumped on the
road with no place to go.
I also live on a farm so
I felt that this thing will happen to me and my family too one day, and seeing
people being dumped on the side of the road is not a good thing at all. This is
why we say we are not in the new dispensation.
It is really necessary
for the South African people to have shelter over their heads to know that they
are part of a ‘better life for all’ as it was promised in the Constitution of
South Africa. And we need other people to respect us, whether we are rich or
Then farmers started to
evict even more people, illegally in most cases. Their friends and relatives
give farmers more power than us on the poorer side of the law in South Africa.
So we started to educate people about their rights in the land and to talk to
the farmer for them because people do not have the guts to face their bosses,
the farmers and the police who help the farmers all the time in everything that
the farmers wants to do.
Most farm dwellers today
don’t have livestock because the farmers say they don’t want goats, cows and
horses and if the farmer wakes up in a bad mood, he just impounds the people’s
livestock without a good reason in most cases. People are helpless and nobody
comes to their rescue, and the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) is not helping
although the legislation says they must be helped but the laws of the country
are not helping them. Although we have ESTA and the Land Reform (Labour Tenants)
Act (LTA) that are supposed to protect the people but they are not protecting
them at all — even the police are biased against farm dwellers and in many cases
the police say they don’t know about these laws but only know about laws that
protect the farm owners.
This makes the life of a
farm dweller very difficult and unprotected. That is why we say: “Farm dweller —
a forgotten citizen of South Africa.”
The farmers do not want
the people to do what they used to do before 1997 because they say that ESTA
says that people are not allowed to cultivate the land anymore even though they
used to do this and keep livestock as their right.
The farmers today, they
say to the farm dweller that their children above 18 years are not wanted on the
farm. We don’t know where they must go. Sometimes they go and stay with other
people although they have a home and family. But they are not welcome. And if a
house falls down, you are not allowed to rebuild it until you are left with only
one room and then the farmer is happy because you will leave soon.
Where are our rights in
the new South Africa?
The farmers make our
lives very hard. Some farm dwellers have to rent where they stay and even if
they are labour tenants, they pay for water they get from the spring or river
although the farmer did nothing to provide this service. The water came from the
soil but the farm dweller has to pay for it. This started when the Minister of
Labour said people must be paid a minimum wage. The farmers began to deduct the
farm dwellers’ wages until sometimes they are only left with R200 a month.
I think that this is
caused by hatred and racism and the desire to make poor people stay poor.
The people who used to
cultivate the land and keep livestock are now poor and hungry, the hope in life
gone. Some are still on the farms, some live in townships now, some in informal
settlements and most of them are not working because the farms do not employ
them anymore. They employ people from outside, and sometimes even people from
I feel bad because we are
supposed to be living a better life in our new democracy because it is really
bad to live in hope, saying all the time “I wish I had that” but being unable to
get it. We are told that we are now in the new South Africa and life is better.
But we don’t see this.
When we voted in 1994, we
voted for land, a better life for all and for justice and there were promises
but nothing has come of that. Well, there is a better life. But it’s only a
better life for the top guys. That shows that we only voted so that we could
vote again after another five years, and then another five years. Which is what
is happening. When we are about to vote, the politicians know us. After the
vote, they forget about people on the farms and the poor.
We were promised 30% of
the land in five years. This promise is not fulfilled. Now we are promised 30%
in the year 2015 or the year 2020. Why do they always say we’ll get it in the
long run when people’s lives are in the short run?
People could be living a
better life. They could be helping each other like in the old days when they
helped themselves and their families. There was no hunger then. People worked
like slaves but they had what they wanted all the time. They were friendly and
there was no crime like today because they had the things they needed. If the
government had done its job, people would be living a better life, free from
bondage. If the government did the right things, we would be living in a good
environment because people would be doing their jobs at home and those who work
away from home would also be able to help with the education of the children.
In the past, people were
leaving their wives to go and work in Durban, Cape Town or Jo’berg or somewhere.
But there was no hunger if a man did not come home regularly because he would
have money for the family. That’s why people had a lot of livestock, because
everything they bought belonged to the family, not just to one person. And while
those in the city would be paid, those at home would sell their crops and
livestock and do what they need to do with the money.
I doubted the good sense
of it when the government came up with market-led land reform, the willing
buyer, willing seller idea. It came as no surprise when a farmer said he is
willing to sell his farm to the farm dwellers and then the DLA had no funds to
purchase the land. I doubt the government because so often it says this and
promises that but in the end it says there are no resources to do any of these
The government officials
I speak to, most of them come and we talk and then they never come back. If
someone comes back, it’s usually a different person with a different agenda.
They always change the subtext. It’s either they take a divide and rule tactic
or do some of the things that we spoke about as if they had always had that in
I sometimes think they
don’t want us to see that some of what they do is what we came up with.
In the past 10 years I
can say I have seen nothing good because we are still being treated like
non-humans and our people are killed, assaulted, chased, evicted, forceably
removed, abused and work in slave-like conditions. The old days were not like
these days of closed road access to schools and water, reduction and impounding
of people’s livestock, renting of mud houses that we built ourselves and paying
for water that runs in a river.
The government must give
people land to cultivate and keep livestock because we have no jobs, no other
ways to survive.
There is no reason for
rural people to celebrate these 10 years of democracy. They have been 10 years
of democracy with no freedom, no space to practise our rights. We were not
supposed to say aluta continua in the new dispensation but we are saying “aluta