Report cites abuse of workers

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

South Africa's land reform programme has resulted in "some kind of civil war" and calls for the urgent intervention of the government, the private sector and civil society.

According to a report by the land rights NGO, the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra), the government's attempts to provide increased security to farm dwellers highlights a "seemingly untenable situation", particularly in KwaZulu-Natal.

The situation has resulted in abused farm dwellers and workers having to fight for their land and rights through highly contested legal and negotiated processes. Such efforts proved expensive and many cases fell by the wayside.

The report estimates that the conflict over land rights in KwaZulu-Natal affects more than 12300 people.

Since October 2001 to June 2007, farm dwellers have reported nearly 1600 cases of alleged socio-economic abuses to the KwaZulu-Natal Land Legal Cluster Project - an average of 24 cases a month.

Lisa del Granda, Afra director and author of the report, adds that due to the lack of accessible and affordable legal services to represent farm dwellers in the cases, 60 percent of all matters remain unresolved.

"There is a severe shortage of skilled lawyers on land rights matters in defence of farm dwellers."

She said the complaints by farm dwellers vary from evictions, interference with rights and threatened evictions which account for nearly 40 percent of all abuses.

In some instances, farm owners have cut off water, locked gates, reduced stock numbers, impounded cattle, fired workers and intimidated families.