A national workshop in 2006 looked at the position of farm dwellers in South Africa and put forward demands for an alternative framework for land reform.

A national farm dweller workshop national workshop to discuss farm dweller issues was held on the 11th and 12th December 2006, in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal. The workshop was jointly hosted by eight provincially based NGOs (NKUZI, ANCRA, SPP, SCLC, FSRDA, LAMOSA, TRAC

  1. MP) and co-ordinated by the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA).

Farm dwellers from all nine provinces in South Africa came together to talk about issues of common concern and to further formulate a national farm dweller position on their status in South African society, real transformation options for the agricultural sector, and issues of access to the justice system, continued insecure tenure, evictions and agrarian reform Participants included farm dweller representatives coming from all nine provinces, NGO representatives from each province and national NGOs and organisations supporting and working with farm dweller issues.

  1. need for a new framework for land reform

In the course of the workshop, several key issues and demands emerged. These are summarised below. The first key demand was for a new, alternative framework for land reform, one that addresses farm dweller issues. The existing framework allows farm dwellers to still experience right infringements and power imbalances, and they remain without land and without real support from the justice system. Participants argued that the Constitution did not protect farm dwellers and that legislation is neither effective nor enforced.

The workshop identified the roots causes of the problem as capitalism, specifically the capitalist agricultural system, and the current political system, which is not pro poor. In combination these constitututed an overarching framework which did not allow for transformation which addresses the needs of farm dwellers.

Elements of a new framework

The workshop agreed that a new framework needed to be based on democracy, justice and redress. Such a framework also needed to recognise that farm dwellers are a distinct group of people, with particular needs that require targeted transformation programmes.Farm dwellers live as families – they require protection of family life and protection of tenure rights for all household members. Moreover, farm dwellers are dependent on natural resources for survival – they require secure access to agricultural land for food production. They are insecure as a result of multiple tenure rights and require the right to exclusive real rights to land. Notwithstanding, farm dwellers are equal citizens – they need access to fundamental rights and their issues need to be addressed urgently.

The workshop also agreed that the new framework would have to include no selling of land to foreigners, no equity schemes, all land in South Africa be nationalised, improved access to, and support for, education of all farm children, skills development and further education and training of farm dwellers. Racism and economic oppression of farm communities be proactively addressed by Government institutions and the rights of women on farms be secured – women need independent and equal rights in tenure and with regard to labour.

The workshop then outlined a process for how a new framework should be developed, with the active involvement of rural communities, especially women and youth, the centrepiece of such a process.

  1. Access to justice for farm dwellers.

The workshop demanded access to justice for farm dwellers. The land rights of farm dwellers continued to be violated by farm owners. There are on-going evictions, both legal and illegal. The majority of farm residents remain illiterate and struggle to engage with the existing legal system. Legal services are required not only around evictions but around a range of human rights abuses including labour issues, injury cases and verbal abuse cases.

It is the responsibility of the State to provide

legal service to farm dwellers. Such a service should provide special courts, close to where farm dwellers live, a land desk at police stations and a dedicated unit within the SAPS, dealing with eviction issues, all as a free service to farm dwellers.

  1. A moratorium on evictions

The workshop called for a moratorium on the eviction of farm dwellers. It noted that despite the agreement at the national Land Summit held in 2005 on a moratorium on evictions and forced removals with government, evictions have continued and have in fact increased.

A national campaign on farm dweller Issues

The workshop concluded by resolving to embark on a national campaign to raise the issues affecting farm dwellers. The focus of the campaign would be:

  1. A demand for an alternative legal and policy framework to address the issues of farm dwell- ers.
  1. A demand for access to affordable and accessible legal services to give effect to the rights of farm dwellers.
  1. A class action case against the Government in support of Labour Tenant Claims.
  1. A demand for a moratorium on evictions.

Possible campaign actions could include returning evicted families to the land, identifying and occupying dormant land or farms, Truth and Justice commission for farm abuses, solidarity and pickets at magistrate courts and a national day for farm dwellers.

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