The land reform programme in South Africa comprises of three components. First, there is restoration of land rights and cash compensation to the victims of forced removals. The second round of restitution has just opened in 2014. Second, there is an attempt to redistribute land to address the unequal ownership of land as the result of discriminatory laws during the apartheid. Third, there is a tenure reform process that seeks to strengthen the rights of vulnerable groups of people (farm workers, labour tenants, farm dwellers and those living in communal areas in former homelands under traditional chiefs).
SACBC justice and peace works with the social movements that are involved in the third component of the land reform programme. This includes conducting solidarity visits to the social movements seeking tenure justice for the farm dwellers. On Saturday the 30th of August, Fr Stan and Philani, accompanied by one of the leaders of the Landless People’s Movement, Mr. Gcino Shabalala, conducted a solidarity visit to the farm dwellers and farm workers around Mooi River to talk about the protection of their tenure rights. This was after we learnt about challenges faced by people living on commercial farming areas at the social movements’ summit of 2014 held at Makhasaneni near Eshowe in KZN. At the said summit in March 2014, communities presented reports about their living and working conditions on commercial farms. Most of the experiences shared revealed a pattern of abuse and violation of rights. Among these violations water and electricity cut offs, impoundment of livestock, restrictions on visits, refusal of burial rites etc. As a follow up to the summit, we decided to visit farms where these actions were reported to be rife. This was one such farm.
We entered Woul Commaan farm through a wide open gate and proceeded to the community’s settlement. We had just done introductions when the caretaker, Mr Hendrik, arrived and disrupted our meeting with the people. He accused us of trespassing. When we tried to explain our visit, he became upset and told us that we could have simply called him because he knew everything about the farm. We explained that this is a personal visit to the community on the farm, and not a visit about the production issues on the farm. He hung around and managed to intimidate people. We realised that we could no longer continue with the meeting and left. But this was after having been told by the people that 39 cattle and 67 goats they own had been impounded by the farmer. We had also been told that they did not have water. The borehole used by the community operates on electricity and that Mr. Hendrik had switched off electricity. The question is how long will these people stay without water. Without doubt, they will eventually go away to a place where they can access to water. This, according to the movements that were gathered at Eshowe, is called ‘constructive’ eviction. Which means even though there is no court order, no physical force, but the series of actions that makes lives difficult resulting in people having to leave. The social movements are planning a meeting before the end of September to come up with an action plan on how to address the constructive eviction.