Today the Pietermaritzburg High Court handed down a precedent setting judgment on the case against local municipalities: Umshwathi, Msunduzi and uMgungundlovu District Municipality for their failure to provide farm dwellers and labour tenants with access to water, adequate sanitation and refuse collection, as well as their failure to prioritise the rights of occupiers and labour tenants in their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).
In his judgment, Judge Mnguni acknowledged the municipalities ongoing and persistent failure to provide farm occupiers and labour tenants residing within areas of their jurisdiction with access to basic sanitation, sufficient water and collection of refuse as being inconsistent with the Constitution and ordered that the municipalities provide farm dwellers and labour tenants with basic services.
The case was brought to court by AFRA and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in 2017 as a class action on behalf of farm occupiers and labour tenants residing under the jurisdiction of uMshwathi, Msunduzi and uMgungundlovu District Municipality in Kwa-Zulu Natal. It sought structural relief to ensure that Municipalities provide farm occupiers and labour tenants with access to sufficient water, basic sanitation and collection of refuse.
Prior to the legal application, AFRA had received nearly two hundred farm dwellers and labour tenants claiming no access to basic services. In many cases, when they approach their municipalities to raise their concerns, municipal officials would inform them that farm owners prevent them from gaining access to their farms, thereby obstructing them from providing basic municipal services to farm dwellers.
We are happy that this court has correctly acknowledged the constitutional breaches by these Municipalities in failing to address the constitutional rights of farm occupiers and labour tenants and we welcome the remedy that has been ordered by the court. We will be monitoring the reports and plans that the court has ordered explaining how the municipalities will provide farm dwellers and labour tenants with their constitutional rights.
We believe that this judgment will reinforce and strengthen the rights of farm dwellers and labour tenants, but more than anything, that it will restore the dignity of the many farm occupiers and labour tenants who have to use the bushes as ablutions/ toilets, who have to carry 25 litre cans +/-200 metres to get their water, who do this, every day because they are not visible and therefore are not included in Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).
We hope the municipalities will not oppose the order but will work to improve the lives of people living on farms in accordance with the constitution.
Please find link to the full judgment.
For more information on the judgment, please contact.
Thabiso Mbhense – Legal Resources Centre Attorney – 071 109-9340
Nokuthula Mthimunye – AFRA Communications – 076 754-7110.