Landless in Life and Landless in Death - Thabo Manyathi
The historical challenges to and support of farm dweller’s rights has taken many forms in this province in particular, and in the country as a whole. From issues controlling who lives in their homesteads and how many buildings may be erected, to grazing rights, livestock impounding and freedom of movement (which is often portrayed as trespass issues), farm dweller rights to build and sustain their families have been battered over time. With ongoing conflicts over these rights on farms all these must be seen as symptoms of the broader struggles by the landless to articulate and interpret what they consider to be their land rights.
Recently conflicts around land rights have included those of burial rights. These disputes have come to constitute a major point of confl ict between those who own the land and have attendant power and those who are landless and powerless.
Despite the limited rights accorded by the laws namely ESTA and KwaZulu- Natal Cemeteries and Crematoria Act to the landless, landowners continues to defy these rights. Landless people view the right to bury as the right that defi nes who they are in relation to their right to have a home on that land and to the notion of citizenship on commercial farms. Therefore denial of such a right will often be strongly challenged by them.
The Dlamini Burial in Lions River in 2006 is a case in point. The Dlamini’s had been occupying that land for many years and during this time they had buried family members on the land. Despite being good and loyal servants to the farmer Don McKenzie, they were denied the right to bury their daughter, Lungile Dlamini. Moreover, both Lungile and her father had sold their labour to the very same farmer for years.
The community and the family felt that such a denial of right was not only unlawful but was also an attack on their culture. Should they have given in to the farmer they would have set a trend for all farmers in the district of Howick and in the province of KZN. This burial clash came just after the landless people had taken major resolutions in the National Land Workshop held in Pietermaritburg in December 2006. The family was adamant that they wanted to bury on the farm and approached the local LPM and AFRA for assistance. The family with this support proceeded with the burial without formal agreement from the owner.
It is important to highlight that the Dlamini burial dispute was seen as the political campaign by the landless people to assert their own interpretation of their rights to land, while on the other hand the government through the DLA and Department of Agriculture were at pains to find an alternative solution that was to compromise the family.
With the support of LPM, AFRA, SANCO and other urban activists, thousands of LPM members and other neighbouring landless communities descended on the farm to bury Lungile Dlamini. The political significance of the Dlamini burial, is that it managed to inspire other landless people to challenge how our laws are to be understood and as a result we have seen forced burials in other areas, like Eston, in the midlands.
The Dlamini burial also managed to forge unity between urban NGOs and their rural counterparts and also brought together in action urban and rural activists. This is something that has not happened for some time in the struggle for land.