Thousands sue for KZN land claims

2014-01-14 00:00

AFTER waiting 13 years for their applications for the acquisition of land to be processed, labour tenants are taking the government to court.

In 2001 tenants were given the opportunity to apply for acquisition of the land they reside on. The applications should take around one year to process, yet many labour tenants have still not heard back from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR).

Now, with the help of Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and the Association For Rural Advancement (Afra), 19 000 labour tenants across the country have filed papers against the DRDLR in the Land Claims Court.

Of the 19 000 labour tenants, 7 713 reside in KwaZulu-Natal. Some of the claims come from residents who live on a farm owned by Hilton College.

A statement released by the LRC and Afra states that since 2001 labour tenants have been requesting reports on their applications through various offices in the DRDLR, but have received no satisfactory answers. The LRC and Afra feel that not processing the applications and failing to notify the land owners and labour tenants is unconstitutional, and as a result of the DRDLR “misconduct” labour tenants have suffered great prejudice in that the farm owners have interfered with their rights.

Some have been evicted from farms, others forced to reduce or get rid of their livestock. There have also been cases where labour tenants are denied basic services, access their ancestral graves or to bury their deceased relatives on farms. Some homes have been demolished.

The LRC and Afra are moving to have the DRDLR’s director-general process or refer all outstanding applications within one year and indicate whether land owners have been notified about the land acquisition applications.

Thabiso Mbhense, an attorney from LRC, said the majority of land owners have no idea that labour tenants have applied to acquire their land.

Mbhense added that they have issued court papers to the the director-general and the minister of the DRDLR in the middle of last year, but they failed to file their answering papers in time. “We issued the court papers . The DRDLR now have until 31st January 2014,” Mbhense told The Witness.

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