Gross racism against landless farmworkers is still rife says Land Affairs

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Even after meeting farmers this week, Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana insisted that there were still some gross injustices perpetrated against farmworkers.

Xingwana met representatives of AgriSA and the National Farmers Union on Wednesday. The two farmer unions had requested a meeting with the minister after she had criticised and called for action regarding how some of them handled their workers.

And two days after the minister's outburst a farmer pounced on a family of 13 in Memel, eastern Free State, on January 31, taking away their nine cattle, four pigs and 15 chickens.

A family member, Tom Sibeko, said he was at work when the incident happened.

"When I arrived the livestock had already been taken," he said.

"I went to the police station to open a case, but the police refused, saying the farmer, whose name is known to Sowetan, had a right to take the livestock away because he was in the process of evicting us.

"I got help from the Landless People's Movement (LPM) to have the case opened, but the police have still not come to conduct an investigation on the scene."

The farmer has allegedly been trying to evict the Sibeko and other families since last year.

His attempts were blocked by the LPM and Land Affairs officials.

Sibeko said: "The policeman who refused to open the case gave me a document he said was a court order justifying the farmer's intention to evict us. We were never called to court, where the matter was supposed to have been heard."

This has drawn sharp criticism from the Association for Rural Advancement, an NGO based in KwaZulu-Natal that represents rural and farm-dwelling communities.

Lisa Del Grande, the body's director, said: "A court order must be issued . in which a person who wants to evict would state satisfactorily why he wants the people off the land."

She confirmed that allegations of evictions and abuses on farms were now increasing.

Though she did not have national statistics, she said the association had handled 1454 cases of different forms of abuse on farms from October 2001 to October last year.

She said that some farmers did not respect the law and police were reluctant to protect the victims if the perpetrators were white.

Xingwana listed illegal evictions, murders, the impounding of livestock, farmers' reluctance to allow dwellers on their properties to bury their relatives, denying children of tenants' the right to schooling and denying tenants the right to basic services such as water as priority areas for her ministry to work on.