Labour Tenant Case Returns to Court next week!
Labour tenants, supported by AFRA and represented by the LRC, will return to court on the 10th – 11th of October 2016 to once again argue for the appointment of a Special Master to ensure the implementation of the Labour Tenants Act, as well as have the application for an interdict against the Minister heard.
The landmark case on behalf of over 19 000 applicants and 100 000 dependants has been an ongoing battle to ensure that the (Land Reform) Labour Tenants Act of 1996 is implemented. 20 years later, the lack of implementation of the Act has meant that Labour Tenants have continued to live with insecure tenure, further diminishing their rights due to the inaccessibility to basic services because of lack of title deeds.
On the 17th May 2016, after extensive consultation, AFRA entered into a time bound period of negotiations with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the Department) and the Minister of the Department. The terms of that order, as well as AFRA’s concerns regarding aspects of the negotiations, were tabled before court. The agreement to negotiate was then made an order of court, with the aim of agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding before the end of June 2016. If those negotiations broke down, the parties would then return to court.
After a constructive start to negotiations, AFRA was hopeful that a more beneficial outcome for labour tenants could be achieved through a mutual understanding and partnership. However, the negotiations broke down after Minister Gugile Nkwinti made a unilateral decision to announce his intention to convene a “National Forum of NGOs” to determine terms of reference in respect of a programme for farm dwellers (labour tenants and occupiers) in the national press on the 10th June 2016. This decision was made despite the premise of the court order being that all items contained within the scope of the Memorandum of Understanding were for negotiation, including the possible establishment of such a forum. This decision was made without the consultation of AFRA.
Consequently, on the 8th of August 2016, AFRA with the assistance of the Legal Resources Centre, brought an application for an interdict against the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform. AFRA also seeks a court order stating the Minister was in contempt of court by going forth with the establishment of the NGO Forum despite it being an item for negotiation.
As AFRA, we have no objections to the Minister or the Department hosting a forum of any NGOs on any matter they deem fit, except where such a forum is convened in contravention of an on-going legal process.
We acknowledge that the hasty attempts of the Department such as the issuing of section 17s and establishment of forums. However, our scepticism remains, due to the Departments persistent failure to comply with court orders, compelling them to submit a comprehensive plan and resources to addressing labour tenant claims. AFRA does not believe that the Department has taken the necessary steps for the long-term implementation of the Act.
It is for such reasons that 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. The currently unprecedented appointment of a Special Master will grant special power to an independent individual to oversee and monitor the Department, regarding Labour Tenant Act. We believe that due to the persistent and systemic failures by the Department that this is the only course of action that can see the best interests of labour tenants adhered to.
Access has been granted for live streaming and photography in court. For those not able to attend, AFRA will be streaming the events in court on Facebook Live Stream.
For more information, interviews or pictures please contact our Media and Communications Officer , Tom Draper (firstname.lastname@example.org or 078 754 0700).
[Radio] AFRA Director Laurel Oettle talks on Labour Tenants Court Date
[Radio] AFRA Fieldwork Researcher, Ndabe Ziqubu talks on Labour Tenants (for Zulu and Xhosa Media)
[Photo] Labour Tenants protest and sing outside Land Claims Court after waiting 20 years for the implementation of the Labour Tenants Act. Photo: Tom Draper