Summit discusses abuse of farm dwellers

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Emotions ran high when community-based organisations met the ministry of land affairs at a two-day Land Agrarian indaba aimed at addressing problems of farm dwellers in Zululand.

The abuse of farm dwellers was high on the agenda. Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana and KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture and environmental affairs Mtholephi Mthimkhulu attended the summit that ends today.

Xingwana said she hoped the summit would find ways of resolving the issues of abuse against farm dwellers.

She said people in the Zululand district live on private land and their lives become hard when they come into conflict with landowners.

"This situation has resulted in criminal cases and even loss of life. These are the problems that we will discuss."

Farm dwellers representatives called for the establishment of a special court to deal with their cases.

The Landless People's Movement (LPM) complained of the challenges they faced particularly with the way the current courts were structured.

The LPM said in some areas, especially in rural towns, the prosecutor or magistrate was related to the farmer.

LPM spokesman Msizeni Magwaza said people living on the farms were victimised when they reported cases of abuse.

In most instances the cases don't make it to court and those that rarely do are thrown out.

"We are calling for special courts that would deal specially with cases laid by farm dwellers.

"The court would ensure that the farmers and farm dwellers were treated equally."

Magwaza said farm workers were assaulted, evicted and their safety on farms compromised.

"Farmers have the power to do whatever they wish on their land.

"Children have to walk long distances to school as farmers have fenced off all through roads."

Maria Mabaso of Farm Eviction and Development Committee urged Xingwana to make sure that the resolutions adopted at the summit were taken seriously and implemented.

"People here are being abused, denied the right to bury their dead, and are evicted. We call on the minister to expropriate land from those farmers who are involved in this, so that the people of Zululand can live in peace and harmony."