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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.

 

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