Negotiations set to begin on a National Programme for settling Labour Tenant Claims

The landmark case that has been compelling the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the Department) to implement the Land Reform (Labour Tenant) Act returned to court on the 17th May 2016 offering new hope to labour tenants. After many deliberations, Land Claims Court Judge Seena Yacoob declared, “The parties shall negotiate in good faith to conclude a memorandum of understanding. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will appoint a senior manager responsible for managing the national implementation of the Land Reform (Labour Tenant) Act.”

Among other key features of the Court Order is the establishment of a National Forum of key Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who support labour tenants and farm dwellers, which would work together with the Department regarding the development of a national programme for labour tenants and farm dwellers, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of the progress of the programme’s implementation.

The Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA), supported by the Legal Resources Centre, is entering these negotiations cautiously, considering the Department’s consistent failure to effectively implement the Labour Tenant Act or to consult the large majority of labour tenant about their claims over the past 15 years. We remain in direct discussion with labour tenants who are affected, and as AFRA we believe that they should be involved in the settlement of their claims and that a national comprehensive programme with the necessary resources to implement the law needs to be developed – one which has the rights of labour tenants at its centre.

We are however hopeful that these negotiations are opening the door to developing this programme constructively and jointly, and are encourged by the recent sentiments expressed by Minister Gugile Nkwinti regarding the Department’s commitment to ensuring that labour tenants regain their rights to land.

“The Department has stated its commitment to resolving labour tenant claims and has acknowledged their previous failings and the need for joint solutions and partnership,” says AFRA’s Director Laurel Oettle. “The critical point, however, will be how they turn this statement into concrete actions, and if we can reach agreement on the details of how this process should unfold in the coming months and years.”

If by the 30th June 2016 an agreement on how these laws are implemented cannot be reached, the case will return to court to hear arguments regarding the appointment of a Special Master to supervise the Department’s implementation of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act.

eNCA was also in Court on Tuesday covering the case, and you can watch their footage here: eNCA: Labour Tenants Win In Court

For background on the case please see:

Tactical Delays: The Long Wait Continues for Labour Tenants

Tired of Waiting

Special Master Judgement Tomorrow

A Land in Limbo: Hope Deferred 

Judge Mpshe to make landmark “Special Master” judgement

For more information please contact:

Nokuthula Mthimunye, AFRA Communications Advocate

Tel: 033 345 7607 / Email:

Author: AFRA

AFRA is a South African land rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) working with marginalised people on farms to advance the realisation of their rights.

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