It’s been 14 years since the democratic government took rein in South Africa. Farm dwellers are still oppressed as their rights are violated by farm owners, even though current legislations protects them. This violation starts from the police stations up to the courts of law.
One of the biggest challenges is access to free legal assistance from the state to protect farm dwellers from illegal evictions and abuse. Lack of this service in the current government has resulted in deterioration of this situation.
The Director General in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has indicated that there has been no budget from the state to offer these services to farm dwellers, while this service is offered to those standing trial in courts of law.
We are being evicted from farms by farm owners and even by the Land Claims Courts. We have nowhere to go, we were born here and bred here, we were shepherds to farm owners’ stock from as early as the tender age of six years. We were denied education.
All we want is our rights to be protected too, like any other citizen in South Africa, and access to free legal assistance as farm dwellers. Is the South African legal system protecting only the elite, as is the case in South African courts?
From 1990 to June 1994, it was extremely difficult for a farm dweller to access free legal assistance from legal aid board and this is where most illegal evictions and farm dwellers rights were violated and still are at this present stage. This lead to establishment of two legislations, namely the Labour Tenants Act in 1996 and Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 to prevent these illegal evictions and exploitation of farm dwellers.
There are a few people who were lucky enough to get legal assistance from legal aid board before it was closed in September 1999.
These are some of the cases successfully defended.
1. James Masondo & Others vs Van Der Walt.
2. Zulu & others vs Van Rensburg.
3. Khoza & Others vs Gerust farm
4. Simelane & Others vs Potgieter
Government is turning a blind eye to this need by farm dwellers. Being unable to get skilled and experienced attorneys has resulted in closure of the KZN Legal Land Cluster which was initiated by AFRA as the Department of Land Affairs has failed farm dwellers with their empty promises.
Notice: Accessing legal services
If you are struggling to get legal services, contact AFRA. We may be able to help you get these services.
Farm dweller community meeting on the closing down of the Land Legal Cluster Project. Photo by Isaac Sibeko