Farm workers slam bill

2011-02-16 00:00

THE Land Tenure Security Bill came under severe criticism at a public hearing at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

The Rural Development and Land Reform Department bussed in hundreds of delegates, representing mainly farm workers, from all over the uMgungundlovu District to discuss the bill.

Despite a detailed translation of the bill (which is published in English), none of the delegates who spoke highlighted any positive aspects.

Delegates criticised the way the bill was drafted, as well as aspects that are supposed to safeguard their interests and guard against abuse. They described it as oppression sanctioned by a democratic government and a voter-recruiting gimmick that should be scrapped altogether.

Chief among the complaints was that the bill is available only in English, despite the department knowing that most of the people affected by it are not highly literate.

They said certain aspects of the bill covering the development of agri-villages, a clause stating that children over the age of 18 and not at school must leave the farms where their parents work, and the issue of trespassing on farms are tantamount to oppression.

“The concept of agri-villages was presented to us a long time ago and we made it clear we did not want it, but the department has brought it back again,” said Gcina Shabalala, from Mooi River.

He said the agri-villages would be dumping grounds for people evicted from farms.

Sbongile Mbatha from uMshwathi asked where the children obliged to leave will go.

“The concept of family needs to be discussed here because we have extended families and more importantly a child is not my child only to a certain age, but is my child till the day he or she dies.”

Delegates complained that the period of consultation was too short. “This process ends on February 22, so the decision has already been made and we are here to just rubber-stamp the process.”

Others said the bill was drafted without the input of the farm workers and should be scrapped altogether.

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