25 January 2024
COSATU welcomes Government’s announcement that the long awaited Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Act will come into effect from 1 April 2024. This law has been delayed for far too long. It must now be implemented as a matter of urgency by national, provincial and local government. The agricultural sector and farm owners must adhere to both the letter and spirit of this progressive Act.
The Act will add badly needed protections to farm workers, dwellers and their families from evictions from their homes and farms. It affirms their access to relatives’ graves. It will establish Land Rights Management Board and Committees to resolve disputes and help drive land reform. Organised labour and tenants are to be part of these Committees. The Act’s progressive and pro-worker provisions include:
Farm workers’ families and dependents definition expanded:
- The Act will further protect farm workers and dwellers’ families from evictions. It has expanded and clarified the definition of farm workers and dwellers’ relatives to consist of spouses (including unregistered and customary), children (biological and adopted), grandchildren, parents and grandparents. This is critical as their rights to live on the farms will now be protected as dependents of farm workers and dwellers.
- Relatives have the right to erect, maintain and visit relatives’ graves on farms even if they no longer reside on the farm. Reasonable access must be provided by the farm owner.
- Evictions can only take place if:
- A court order was issued.
- The persons being evicted were present and legally represented at that court hearing.
- Government is to provide free legal representation for those being evicted.
- Mediation should have been attempted first before proceeding to eviction.
- The court should have been convinced that mediation will not be able to resolve the matter.
- Done during reasonable weather conditions (e.g. not during bad weather).
Land Rights Management Board and Committees:
- Will oversee conflict and dispute resolution processes, help drive land reform efforts and include representatives of affected stakeholders, in particular organised labour and tenants.
In addition to implementing this long delayed progressive Act. Much more needs to be done by government to drive land reform and provide support for farm workers, their families, emerging farmers and this critical economic sector as a whole. Interventions needed include Parliament finalising another long delayed law, the Expropriation Bill.
It’s critical government prioritise farm workers and their families in its land reform, restitution and redistribution programmes. This must include not just giving land and title deeds but also training, capital, equipment, seed, fertilizer, access to water, functioning rail and efficient ports etc. to ensure emerging farmers can thrive. Otherwise, we will continue to see high rates of failure for emerging and even established farmers.
Whilst COSATU welcomes and has long championed this pro-worker law over many years, we are deeply aggrieved it took so long. Engagements were held at Nedlac a decade ago. Parliament passed the Act in June 2018 and the President signed it in November 2018. It has taken a further inexplicable and indefensible 6 years for the Department to promulgate its commencement from 1 April 2024. This dereliction of duty would be embarrassing if it was an exception but sadly it has become the norm across many Ministries and Departments. It is time the President and Parliament hold offending Departments and persons accountable.
Issued by COSATU
For further information please contact:
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687