Lawful and just a balancing act

It is common knowledge that many farm workers have been - and still are - subjected to unsatisfactory working and living conditions.

It is common knowledge that many farm workers have been - and still are - subjected to unsatisfactory working and living conditions.

Lamentably these indignities have continued, condemning farmworkers and their families to a substandard existence, 11 years into our democracy.

Government attempts to secure long-term tenure for farm workers through the Extension of Security of Tenure Act has had an unintended consequence of triggering a rush of evictions of black families off farms. This, to circumvent provisions giv ing permanent tenancy to farm workers and their families who have lived on a farm for five years or longer.

So, rather than harmonise relations between the farmers and their workforce, the law has spawned a stand-off.

This is the backdrop to a dispute between a KwaZulu-Natal family and a local farmer. The Majola family has been barred from burying their daughter, Bongiwe, on a farm, near Howick, where four other family members have been laid to rest.

The action has shocked the family, whose father has been working on the farm since 1956. Out of desperation, they have now turned to the courts for relief.

The dispute illustrates the law's difficult balancing act in affirming the farmers' rights to their land while, at the same time, seeking to assert farm workers' rights to long-term security of tenure by virtue of their continuous sojourn on particular land.

Though a tough call, we hope humanity will prevail.

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