Labour tenants, Land News

Under fire Minister Gugile Nkwinti continues to waste money in court instead of settling claims

Minister Gugile Nkwinti of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform continues to drag his heels following the Mwelase (labour tenants class action) judgement by launching an appeal.

The 8th December 2016 saw a massive victory for labour tenants, particularly those that lodged land acquisition claims under the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act. This date marks the Land Claims Court landmark ruling that a Special Master must be appointed to assist the Department to process the longstanding claims of labour tenants who lodged their claims by 31 March 2001.


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AFRA News, Labour tenants, Land News

Hillerman Labour Tenants celebrate VICTORY!

After 20 years of struggle, including the landowner denying that the majority of the occupants in Hillerman farm qualify as labour tenants, the community being faced with eviction, and being denied service delivery, the Hillerman case was resolved in November at the Land Claims Court. The judgment favoured the 361 labour tenants and the State will acquire the land under claim.


Presentation of gifts to Inkosi Mchunu (Traditional Leader) and Labour Tenant leaders

“The judgement means secured tenure for the Hillerman Community, it means we can finally have basic service delivery that we were denied for many years.” These are the words that were echoed throughout the Hillerman community celebration on Sunday, 12 February 2017.


Donna Hornby (Lead Researcher at AFRA) being interviewed by the SABC

The celebration was attended by various government and civil society groups including the AmaChunu Chief. The Chief applauded the community for leading their own struggle, he advised them to continue to use the land productively for the benefit of the community and not individuals.


Various Labour Tenants were interviewed by the SABC

AFRA is very proud to have been part of the Hillerman farm victory. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors. Continue reading

Labour tenants

‘Stay on the land,’ says Zuma. It hasn’t been for lack of trying.

By Laurel Oettle, published 9th February 2017.

South Africa’s fortunes rest on land, which has become a rallying cry for #FeesMustFall, the EFF and various other organisations across the country. It took President Jacob Zuma an hour to get to the issue in his “radical socio-economic transformation” SONA address last night. The troop mobilisation, punch-ups, teargas, stun grenades, swearing and walkouts suggest that the disintegration of consensus will make it difficult for government to enlist broad co-operation in any of its objectives, including land reform, and will continue to drive change in a way that has been marked by 23 years of failure.

President Zuma’s pronouncement that it will be “difficult if not impossible to achieve true reconciliation until the land question is resolved,” was an acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue, simultaneously pointing to the failure of land reform (quoting only 9,8% of arable land having been transferred to black people) and government’s contortions to appease the electorate and take the sting out of political competition that has taken over the initiative.

The renewed and ever more vigorous focus on land is welcome because land is the basis on which all South Africans are able to assume full citizenship. It grants them access, in a multitude of ways, to livelihoods, dignity and equality. The land question therefore remains a critical feature of the country’s politics, marked by volatility, insecurity and confusion. To break the logjams in land reform is necessary, and long overdue. But the question has to be asked: to what end? What will be solved or destroyed along the way? Will those who reap the reward be those in the queue of history, patiently waiting for justice to get around to them, or will it be those who already have the money and the connections and are poised to add a farm here or there to their property portfolios?

It is hard to ignore the staggering amount of money – R631 million, according to Zuma’s SONA pronouncements – that is going into a policy that as of yet remains highly criticised, unpublished and entirely opaque. Known as the “50/50 policy”, or “Strengthening the relative rights of people working the land,” this brainchild of Minister Nkwinti does not, in fact, transfer land to black farm workers. Instead, it is pumping millions of rands into failing farms for the transfer of business shares to a relatively small number of farm workers and farm dwellers, with the biggest benefit seeming to remain with the white land owners. This seems little more than a horribly twisted and empty embodiment of the ANC policy under OR Tambo of “land to the tiller.”

Everyone is watching the land space. It embodies transformation, and understanding this allows for a comprehensive and critical analysis of the successes and failures of transformation in South Africa. So what has gone wrong? We have policy and legislation, but poor governance and administration systems. The push and pull around land has not been grounded in the systems and resources that would be needed. Land claimants have been paid out in quickly-spent cash rather than having their land restored, without a full understanding of what options should be available to them. It is laudable that Zuma’s speech included an appeal to land claimants to accept land instead of financial compensation, stating that over 90% of claims are currently settled through financial compensation and acknowledging, moreover, that government from the outset has poorly handled this issue.

“Land remains,” he said. “It is important that you remain with the land.” It hasn’t been for lack of trying, if you are an evicted farm dweller or neglected labour tenant.

Government has tended to speak to people through announcement, through press statements, especially with regard to land. Dialogue needs to be moved from the central, urban, metropolitan processes and spaces, and must instead be grounded in variegated realities of rural life. Continue reading


Responsible Governance of Land in South Africa: Turning Talk into Action

by Laurel Oettle, published 2nd February 2017.

The third National Workshop to improve the governance of tenure in South Africa with the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” (the VGGTs or Voluntary Guidelines) got underway yesterday in Durban, and will run for a further two days. I was fortunate enough to be asked to present on the status of the VGGT implementation in South African by civil society organisations, which gave me a chance to reflect and share my a few of my thoughts.

My first direct engagement with the VGGTs was in September 2015, when I joined the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) learning programme on gender and land. My interest piqued by my desire to learn more tools to address gender inequality, particularly in my current context of grappling with the complexities of land tenure, I jumped at the opportunity. I made many new friends across civil society, government, academic institution, social movements and organised agriculture, and we engaged actively with understanding the VGGTs, identifying tools to increase women’s equitable access to land, and seeing how we could use this knowledge in our work. This was followed in May 2016 by the second National VGGT workshop, which focused on capacity assessment. Dr Ruth Hall from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) wrote an excellent summary of the some of the key outcomes of the workshop whilst sharing her own perspectives on land governance in South Africa, which can be read here.

I have thoroughly enjoyed engaging in multiple civil society spaces since I joined the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) in 2015, from local right through to National and International partnerships. These range from the Tshintsha Amakhaya civil society alliance for land and food justice in South Africa, to the newly established Land Governance Transformation Network, and the International Land Coalition. Within all these spaces, I have heard increasing awareness of and knowledge about the VGGTs, but not yet a high degree of resonance with existing work and practical application. So, within an action-oriented sector ultimately concerned with the lived daily reality of the most marginalised and vulnerable in our country, the burning question seems to be:

How do we use this theoretical framework in action-oriented ways to see real change?

In order to begin answering this question, I would like to share one way in which, within AFRA, we have begun to try and do this: our Pathways ProjectContinue reading