Farm Dwellers and Workers in uMgungundlovu District Organise themselves


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AFRA is proud of being part of an initiated and successfully formulated ground-based partner leading the land rights struggles. This structure was formed with local farm dwellers and workers residing in uMgungundlovu District, an outcome from an AFRA hosted Regional Farm Dweller and Workers Platform in September 2016, where locals decided to take forward their demands jointly at local and district level. AFRA, with the support from Oxfam and Tshintsha-Amakhaya, hosted local workshops to concretise the roadmap for local and district formations. Local meetings were held and all the local formations confirmed the delegates and representatives of the District Forum at the Farm Dweller and Workers Platform which was then held in April this year.

Farm dwellers and workers have organized themselves into a new structure, which they have named Siyanqoba Rural Transformation Forum (SRTF), which is carrying out a plan of action to address the challenges farm dwellers and workers are experiencing on the ground. Siyanqoba is an isiZulu phrase which means “we are winning”. The structure has local committees in each of the 6 local municipalities (uMshwathi, uMkhambathini, iMpendle, Mooi-Mpofana, uMngeni and Richmond) representing farm dwellers and workers. The action plan that was adopted by the SRTF focuses on the key issues of labour rights for farm workers, anti-evictions and increased participation in democratic spaces.

SRTF members have embarked on a series of activities to claim their rights, participate in shaping decisions and policies and processes that affect their lives and hold power to account, challenging systems which perpetuate poverty and inequality. The activities include; farm workers attending an imbizo on the 23rd of April 2017 organised by the Department of Labour in Ndwedwe where the Minister of Labour was present. The farm workers prepared and presented a memorandum of demands and forced the Department to commit to undertake farm inspections in their areas.

An anti-eviction campaign focusing on Mondi was identified as a persistent violator of the rights of farm dwellers and farm workers. Members were invited to attend the Peoples’ Economic Forum in Durban on the 3rd May 2017, where they presented a memorandum of demands and participated in a mass protest organised by a variety of civic formations demanding environmental and socio-economic justice. It was agreed through this process to build a broader alliance of organisations to spotlight the violations at Mondi farms and other forestry plantations.

A graphic harvester was contracted to run a training workshop for members of the SRTF, where the campaign issues were unpacked and translated into a “visual language”. This workshop took place on the 23rd of May 2017. These were transferred into toolkits that will inform and assist farm dwellers and workers to assert and claim their rights.

AFRA being a member of the national alliance of land rights organisations, Tshintsha Amakhaya (TA) further exposed the SRTF members to work with other communities across South Africa who have similar experiences and who are working to improve the rights and livelihoods of rural people, particularly women and youth.

AFRA is pleased to report that not only has a strong community based organisation been formed, but we are also optimistic that innovative forms of struggle which advance the voice of rural people, especially women and youth, are beginning to surface.


AFRA News, Labour tenants, Land News

Minister Nkwinti appeal against court relief for labour tenants

Labour Tenants sitting outside Land Claims Court by Tom Draper.JPG

In 2016, AFRA regained prominence by driving a precedent-setting class-action case in the Land Claims Court to force the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to act on approximately 20,000 labour tenant claims that had been languishing for 15 years. The Department’s systemic failure spurred AFRA to seek further redress, believing that a Special Master would be the only mechanism powerful enough to oversee the implementation of the Labour Tenants Act. During the course of 2015 and 2016, AFRA mobilised labour tenants from across the country to attend hearings at the Land Claims Court. Despite a variety of logistical challenges, the #LabourTenants movement became widely publicised in print, radio and televised media as well as social media.

In landmark judgement on 8th December 2016, Judge Thomas Ncube of the Land Claims Court found in favour of the appointment of a “Special Master of Labour Tenants”.  In his judgement he noted:

“Regrettably reports were not filed timeously in accordance with the implementation plan and there was non-compliance with other aspects of the plan and furnishing of information required…From the history of the litigation, it is apparent in my view, that the Department has not been able to comply with its own timeframes or to provide accurate information on how far the collation of labour tenants claims has progressed…Effective relief is undoubtedly required by the many thousands of vulnerable labour tenants”

Judge Ncube found that Minister Nkwinti and the Director General acted in manner, “inconsistent with Sections 10, 25 (b), 33, 195 and 237 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa” and that a, “Special Master of Labour Tenants” shall be appointed by no later than the 3 March 2017 to supervise the Director General and the Department in respect of the pending labour tenant claims under Sections 16, 17 and 18 Act. The judgment details the steps to be undertaken to achieve the expeditious resolutions of these claims, including a determination of:

  • The total number of claims lodged and the number which have yet to be processed and finalised;
  • The skill pool and infrastructure required for the processing of labour tenant claims within the Department;
  • Targets on a year-to-year basis for the resolution of pending labour tenant claims;
  • The determination of the budget necessary during each financial year for carrying out the Implementation Plan, including both the Departments’ operating costs for processing claims and the amounts required to fund awards made pursuant to the applications;
  • Plans for co-ordination with the Land Claims Court to ensure the rapid adjudication or arbitration of unresolved claims;
  • Any other matters which the Special Master may consider relevant.

AFRA welcomed the judgment and placed on public record its long held view that we seek:

“….to constructively engage with the Department on the appointment of the Special Master and the finalisation of the Implementation Plan. AFRA is committed to ensure the success of the Implementation Plan and will support the Special Master and the Department to achieve the processing and finalisation of labour tenant claims.”

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The Department and the Minister lodged an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which was granted.  The record was filed with Supreme Court of Appeals on 03 July 2017 and an application for urgent enrolment also submitted to the Supreme Courts of Appeal. We are now awaiting the finalisation of the Court date.

While the wheels of justice have slowly turned, the DRDLR established dedicated Labour Tenant Project and the project manager was appointed in March 2017. At the start of 2017 the DRDLR also established National & District labour tenant fora established across all districts in KwaZulu Natal, which are coordinated by the department.  AFRA believes that these, potentially positive developments, is a direct result of the class action and will hold a consultative provincial workshop for KZN labour tenants & farm dwellers in October 2017 to update them on class action and share strategies to impact on the processing and finalisation of outstanding claims in a manner which supports improved livelihoods and economic opportunities for labour tenants and their communities. This workshop will bring labour tenant and farm dweller representatives from across the Kwazulu-Natal province and will be hosted jointly with the Legal Resources Centre.

Watch Special Assignment, The promised land, which documents the #LabourTenant class action case.

AFRA News, Land News, New Publications

AFRA’s role in a new book on Securing Tenure revealed at its 2017 AGM


The publication of Untitled: Securing Urban and Rural Tenure in SA (2017, UKZN Press) is an important moment for AFRA. The title – Untitled – refers to the 60% of South Africans who live on and hold land and housing they do not have title to. The book questions a key assumption: that a title deed means secure tenure, and suggests there are other locally grown ways of owning land in South Africa.


The book brings to completion action-research AFRA started in 1997 with the community of Ekuthuleni, near Melmoth. Although we couldn’t provide the tenure security Ekuthuleni wanted, the many reasons for the failure of that project are a guiding theme in the book. Those lessons are now also being carried into AFRA’s Pathways Project, particularly the importance of recording evidence in contexts of off-register land rights.

The book also reflects origins and continuity. It is a tribute to the life and work of Tessa Cousins, who died in an accident in 2011. Tessa worked at AFRA in the 1990s and co-ordinated the LEAP project, which produced the work that appears in Untitled. Leap began in 1998 when the then DLA asked AFRA to investigate why the communal property institutions (CPIs) set up to take ownership of land transferred under land reform were failing. Tessa, who was also a founding member of the Midlands Rural Development Network (Midnet), agreed and LEAP was born.

Ndabezinhle Ziqubu, AFRA’s oldest continuous staff member – 20 years this year! – was a key LEAP researcher. He was part of the team whose research produced the chapter “Leaping the Fissures”, which looks at the gaps between paper policies and practices on the ground.  The key finding is that tenure security has both a procedural and substantive component, and both must be present and supported by the state for individuals, households and groups to be secure on land. Ndabe is now involved in a new AFRA project to train land reform trusts.

But continuities are also about wonderful twists of fate.  AFRA has given birth to a new generation of land activists under the helm of Tessa’s daughter, Laurel.  In addition to leading AFRA into the future, Laurel is active in setting up the Land Governance Transformation Network (LGTN), a network of organisations across the country working on a proposed Land Records Bill. The LGTN is thus in many respects the new Leap of the future.

For ordering and distribution of ”Untitled”  visit Booksite Afrika /E-mail: orders@booksite-afrika.co.za

AFRA News, Land News




Dr Donna Hornby (AFRA Researcher) presenting at the Pathways Project Learning Workshop in June 2017

What are the long-term land prospects for farm dwellers in South Africa?

This is a key question coming out of the survey of 800 households in the UMgungundlovu District being undertaken by the Pathways out of Poverty Project. The question comes up because while evictions appear to have declined, migration is increasing. Only 8.2% of the 3100 farm dwellers say that their permission to be on the farm has been withdrawn suggesting the eviction trends identified by Wegerif et al in 2005 have slowed down. However, of those who have permission to live on the farm, 28% do not sleep at home most nights, and of those, most have left home in search of work.

How do we make sense of these trends? The underlying dynamics are complex and contradictory and include:

  • Centripetal forces of migration, which operate at the destination point of migration, drawing farm dwellers, particularly young men, off farms and into the peripheries of towns and cities in search of better lives. The data tells us that young men in particular earn more from off-farm employment than do women, while women on farms earn far more from social grants than do men.
  • Centrifugal forces of migration, which operate at the departure point to push farm dwellers off farms. These include overt and constructive evictions. In these dynamics, farm dwellers leave the farm to avoid inhospitable living conditions, exploitative and oppressive employment conditions, or long-term unemployment. Just under 21% of adults are employed on farms, suggesting unemployment trends on farms make them difficult places to secure livelihoods. In addition to unemployment, 63% of households say they have received no services from the local municipality. Although many landowners are providing services to farm dwellers – a key indicator of the 64% of farm dwellers who say they have either good (27,7%) or average relationships with land owners – this clearly isn’t enough to create conditions conducive to permanent home-making.
  • However, despite these push and pull factors, another trend is also evident. Claims to land are asserted through narratives centred on an African identity that counters colonial versions of ownership. These assertions, often made by family elders, include references to graves, family homes and rural livelihoods, and to long histories on particular farms – “When the whites came and made these farms, they found us already here.” In the data, 71% of people said they or their families own the house they live, even though they know the farm is owned by someone else. Furthermore, 64% said their children or another relative would take over the house on their deaths. This strongly suggests that there is a normative dimension to farm dweller house ownership that exists alongside the registered ownership of the farm.

The intensification of party political rhetoric around a “radical land politics” bolsters the counter colonial assertions of ownership, which in turn increases the volatility of relationships between land owners and farm dwellers. The concern is that the space for negotiated settlements on farms is narrowing dangerously and rapidly. Prospects for peaceful resolution would need to be inclusive of farm dwellers, and offer a material stake in the land.

The Pathways Project has identified six models or strategies for securing the tenure of farm dwellers and their access to services, including strategies to break the cycle of violations on farms, proposals being developed by land owners, planning instruments such as spatial development plans and the Spatial Land Use Management Act, enumeration approaches currently being used in urban shack settlements, accessing existing housing and ESTA provisions and key government led investments. AFRA is in the process of talking to a range of stakeholders around these strategies, and invites interested people to make contact.




Media and Communications


The last year has seen great development in AFRA’s media and communications strategy and output. With the positive support of a growing staff body, along with some landmark legal victories, AFRA has managed to capitalize on its achievements and secure important press coverage. The communications team has developed systematic strategies that aim to further compound AFRA’s role in the land sector while giving a voice to the most marginalized elements of society.

The Strengthening Rural Democracy documentary, funded by Oxfam South Africa, was an opportunity to develop and nurture an internal production team that can handle larger video projects in the future. It allowed for in-depth investigation into the lives of farm dwellers and workers and the dynamics that are so pivotal to their livelihoods.

As a further contribution to Oxfam South Africa’s Rural Transformation Project, AFRA was able to create a second documentary for SCLC (Southern Cape Land Committee) which has been excellent in developing the competency of our production team, as well as starting to develop a reputation in the land sector for content creation and video production.

With regards to social media and online engagement, the communications team would like to develop systems that replicate those of the corporate sector. This would entail content schedules for consistent online presence as well as online engagement trackers that allow interaction to be monitored and analyzed in order to improve AFRA’s online approach. The content creation will have an emphasis on info graphics, photo essays and videos as well as regular news pieces that relate to the land sector and AFRA’s specific projects. The aim is to simplify and package the dynamic work that AFRA is involved in so that it is easily accessible for public consumption.

As public interest in the land sector increases, so does the need for clarity and insight on a ground level. AFRA, as an organization, is well placed to influence local and national approaches to land use and the laws that define them. With that firmly in mind, the communication strategies that are being developed aim to gradually raise the profile of the organization and the work it is involved in.