Farm and traditional land dwellers’ rights must be protected

Any amendments to Section 25 of South Africa’s Constitution needed to prioritise the protection of the land rights of farm dwellers and those living on traditional authority lands.

This was according to the written submission made recently by the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) to the ad hoc committee currently evaluating public input with regard to government’s proposal to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow for property to be expropriated without compensation.

AFRA, which is a non-profit land rights organisation operating mostly in KwaZulu-Natal, said in its submission that the majority of farm dwellers the association had consulted with supported the proposed amendment.

“While they presented a range of arguments in support of their views, farm dwellers emphasised that their homes were on farms and their lives and the lives of their families were all directly affected by government’s failure to implement land reform effectively, leaving them to [eke] out lives on the margins of commercial farms.”

AFRA’s leadership wrote in the submission that they believed that labour tenants, long-term farm occupiers, people living in shack settlements on land abandoned by owners, and customary rights holders living on land under traditional authority governance, were all examples of statutory rights holders.

The submission added that due to the statutory rights already held by these people, the land they lived on could therefore not be valued at market rates.

“Those portions [of land], in effect, have no value on an open market. Where such land is subject to expropriation for the purposes of land reform, including securing tenure, and therefore in the public interest, this land could conceivably be valued at nil and, therefore, the compensation payable for those portions would be zero.”

The association added that it also supported government’s proposals to have initial decisions on whether or not compensation, and the value thereof, for expropriated property vest with the national executive, namely the President and Cabinet, instead of with the courts.

“AFRA also supports the view that all citizens are entitled to appeal decisions of the [national] executive that directly affect them by taking matters to court,” the submission added.

Published in the Farmers Weekly on 4 March 2020.

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