Warning to violators

Farmers who illegally evict their workers and violate their rights could have their land expropriated, Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana said yesterday.

"The government has the right to expropriate the land of those who don't uphold the law," she said to loud applause from the 200-strong gathering of red-shirted Food and Allied Workers Union members who were attending a national conference in Randburg.

"I personally feel that far too many farm workers find themselves facing the scourge of abuse at the hands of some ruthless farmers," she said.

Of the eight million people evicted between 1985 and 2005, only 1 percent of the evictions was legal.

Xingwana said the department had implemented projects to improve tenure security of vulnerable and marginalised communities in order to improve farm workers' livelihoods and to allow them to enter into the mainstream economy.

She said, however, that only a fraction of farm workers and farm dwellers.benefited from these projects.

Xingwana said expropriation had not been started by the ANC government but by a previous government under the theme of skop, skiet en donder [kick, shoot and pummel] in 1936.

"We have to emphasise every day that farm workers are human beings too and deserve to be treated with dignity," she said.

Xingwana said the debate and the need to aggressively relook the tenure issues were emphasised during the Land Summit in 2005.

At the summit a call was made to put a moratorium on all evictions and to review the current legal framework. - Sapa