Twenty-eight female guards were unfairly dismissed by a security company because the client‚ Metrora.
While the KwaZulu-Natal department of agriculture and environmental affairs will challenge a court decision to refuse a family to bury a relative, a rights group says the department should take full responsibility for the outcome.
Samuel Kubheka, 64, died three weeks ago at Donkerhoek Farm in Normandien near Newcastle.
The farm owner, Jacob Swart, refused Kubheka's family permission to bury him on the farm.
The matter was taken to the Newcastle magistrate's court, which ruled in favour of Swart, who has disputed that Kubheka lived on his farm before his death.
The magistrate has upheld Swart's right to refuse permission, saying that Kubheka might not have been resident on the farm when he died.
Lisa Del Grande, of the Association for Rural Development, said: "The Landless People's Movement in that area is on record to have invited the minister [MEC] for agriculture, Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, to intervene on many land rights problems in the area.
"Unfortunately, the minister has chosen to play hide-and-seek in publicity-driven engagements like provincial forums and land summits at the expense of meeting and supporting the people," she said.
Del Grande added: "Such apparent lip service about the concerns for the lives of poor farm dwellers must be denounced."
She said that despite the passing of new land laws which should have given recognition and rights to vulnerable and poor people living on farms, farming communities remained caught up in "paternalistic and sometimes abusive relations" with land owners.
Del Grande said: "We also disapprove of the court judgment because it seeks to preserve the status quo of unequal property relations on farms.
"We believe that the judgment is not only about the burial, but also at stake are cultural and land rights of farm dwellers who are being ignored in favour of Euro-centric notions of family and private property," she said.
Mthimkhulu said yesterday that his department would take the matter to the high court.
"We urge members of the community to allow us to take this matter to the high court because we believe we have a strong case.
"Our main objective is to find an amicable solution so that the bereaved Kubheka family could bury their beloved member with dignity," Mthimkhulu said.