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Farmworkers must know their rights

Written by Albert Pule
The Land Rights Awareness campaign, launched by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform aims to educate people living on commercial farms on land rights and security of tenure.

According to the department, farmworkers are protected by the Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997.

This Act was introduced by government as part of its land reform programme to:

  • Protect people who live on rural, or peri-urban land with the permission of the owner or person in charge of that land.
  • Protect owners and people in charge of land by stating that occupiers have certain duties along with their rights.
  • Stabilise and improve relations between owners and occupiers, by creating fair and clear law, and procedure for evictions.
  • Create procedures for occupiers to get stronger independent land rights such as land ownership.

According to the Act, people staying on a farm can only be evicted once the owner has followed all the three procedures in the Act and has got a court order that allows for the eviction.

Steps to be followed for a lawful eviction include:

  • Phase one: the fair and lawful termination of the occupiers right of residence.
  • Phase two: getting an eviction order from the court.
  • Phase three: implementing the eviction order.

If the owner evicts an occupier without following the correct procedures, the owner has committed a criminal offence and can be jailed for two years. The Act gives farmworkers or occupiers certain rights including the right to:

  • Receive visitors.
  • Receive post or any other form of communication.
  • Not be denied access to water, education, and health services. These rights do not mean that the owner must provide the services.

Part of the campaign also includes the establishment of the Land Rights Management Facility. The Land Rights Management Facility has three main components.

The first two components deal with legal representation and mediation services while the third is the call centre.

The call centre is designed to increase access to departmental services and for people to report any land rights violation, particularly illegal evictions. The call centre operates in all 11 official languages from Monday to Friday. It opens from 07h30 in the morning till 16h30 in the afternoon.

For more information contact the call centre on 0800 007 095 or go to www.ruraldevelopment.gov.za