Looking at farm dweller evictions in South Africa, we should never forget the history of colonial and apartheid–era land dispossession that has contributed to creating the situation we still have to deal with today.
Struggles for liberation all included demands for the land question to be dealt with. Famously, the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955 said, “The land shall be shared among those who work it!” It is farm workers and farm dwellers who work the land, but they have not yet got their share.
The Surplus People’s Project found in 1983 that 3.5 million people had been forcibly removed in the previous 23 years (1960-1983). Of these, the largest group – 1.1 million people – were removed from white farms.
According to the 2001 census, 2.9 million black South Africans still live on farms owned by other, mostly white, owners. A range of reports from organisations such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) have documented the human rights abuses they experience, including evictions.
Recognising these and other land-related problems, the new Constitution of South Africa required the government to implement a land reform programme, including tenure reform. The Constitution specifi cally says in section 26 that “no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court.”
The land reform programme implemented since 1994 aimed to deal with the land issue and included new legislation to deal with farm tenure, notably the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) and the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act (LTA).
Programmes are being implemented by the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) and various NGOs (including the Rural Legal Trust and National Farm Dweller Programme) to try and give effect to these new laws. However, it has been impossible to properly assess the impact of these interventions as there has been no adequate data available.
A number of reports have confi rmed the lack of adequate information on this issue.