A New Dawn for Labour Tenants?

 

The Supreme Court of Appeal will, on the 13th March 2018, hear arguments in the ongoing class action lawsuits between labour tenants and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). In this latest court battle, the judgement handed down by Judge Ncube in the Land Claims Court on 8th December 2016 is being appealed by the DRDLR, who were found to be in contempt of numerous Court Orders and in contravention of the provisions of the Labour Tenants (Land Reform) Act of 1996. The Land Claims Court found that not only had the Minister, the Director General and the department failed to protect the rights of labour tenants, but that they had also proved to be incapable of adhering to the necessary remedies prescribed by the Court.

In an unprecedentedly bold step the Court found in favour of the labour tenants’ application to have a Special Master appointed to oversee the processing of labour tenants’ claims, some 11,000 of which remain incomplete since the closing date in 2001.

The 17 year wait for progress has frustrated those who remain insecure on the land of their ancestors. Many have died, with many more forced away from their ancestral homes as land owners have sought to remove them. The total breakdown of the processing of claims lies squarely with the Department, whose principal head until this week’s cabinet reshuffle, Minister Nkwinti, remained stubbornly opposed to the provisions of the Act which provide individual title to the successful claimants for apparent political/ideological reasons.

As South Africans celebrate the end of the catastrophic error which was the Zuma administration, many are looking forward to the governing party, the ANC, implementing its promise to uphold the rule of law by adhering too and abiding by Court judgements, orders and the time-frames contained therein. It is hoped that the new Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her department will be included in this directive from President Ramaphosa, and that the findings of the Supreme Court of Appeal will be honoured, accepted and adhered to by the Minister.

As Minister Nkwinti frivolously abused tax payers’ monies and disavowed his oath of office for egotistical purposes, the plight of labour tenants continued to worsen. The very claimants in whose name the class action was brought find themselves increasingly victimized by the Hiltonian Society, the owners of the most expensive private school in South Africa. The school wealth has no compunction in victimizing the claimants and their families as it tightens controls within its internal ghetto, more and more resembling a concentration camp. Under new rules imposed by Hilton College, the labour tenant community are told that:

  • All births need to be reported to the manager of the Estate.
  • All houses that are on the Estate belong to the Estate and no one is allowed to renovate the houses or extend.

The daily harassment and indignity suffered by labour tenants is designed only for the purpose of creating conditions so unbearable that they, like so many others, have no choice but to leave their homes.  If a new dawn is to rise for all our citizens, then the Supreme Court of Appeals must find in favour of the labour tenant applicants in this matter and uphold Judge Ncube’s finding to appoint a Special Master of Labour Tenants to supervise and oversee the implementation of the Act by the department.

Will there be a new dawn for labour tenants? If a new dawn is to rise for the dignity and security of tenure for labour tenants and their families, the President and his administration must adhere to the Court Order and let the promise of renewal become the reality of justice for labour tenants.

Kuntwela Ezansi Ezimpilweni Zabakhonzi!

Let a New Day Dawn!

 

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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