Court rules in favour of farmworkers over burial rights

2017-03-10 21:49
(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - After two fraught weeks which included threats of calling the police, a family of Northern Cape farmworkers will finally be able to bury their aunt on a farm that has changed hands.

“I am very pleased,” said Maria Mampies, on her way home from finalising the arrangements for her aunt Magdalena de Wee's funeral on Saturday.

Lawyers for Human Rights' (LHR) land and housing programme approached the Land Claims Court in Randburg, Johannesburg, on Thursday for an urgent declaratory order on behalf of the Mampies family.

LHR asked that they be allowed the right to bury De Wee at the ancestral grave site on Middel-Plaas, Groblershoop, even though they do not live there.

LHR explained to the court that the Mampies family had lived on a farm called Onder-Plaas in Groblershoop for generations.

From the early 1980s, they and over 30 families worked for the landowner, a Mr JP Engelbrecht, who owned three adjacent farms in the area called Onder-Plaas (lower farm), Middel-Plaas (middle farm) and Bo-Plaas (upper farm).

The Mampies family used to live on the lower farm and buried their dead there. When that gravesite became full, they started a new site at the middle farm, with the consent of the owner at the time.

Mrs Mampies buried her father, sister, and two children at the grave site on the middle farm and had expected to be able to do the same for her aunt.

For more than 30 years, they grazed their cattle on the farms and used the farms, as if they were one, with either express or tacit permission from the landowners and their successors.

In 2015 Sandvliet Boerdery (Pty) Ltd, bought the middle and upper farms.

When De Wee died on February 22 this year, the Mampies family asked the new owners for permission. They were shocked when it was refused.

LHR said the new owners even threatened to use the police to stop them, on the grounds that she had not been living on the middle farm at the time of her death.

The lawyers for the new farm owners based their argument on a ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2006 which had been strict about the right to bury in terms of the Extension of Security Act (ESTA) of 1997. Since then, people in a situation similar to the Mampies family had battled to exercise their ancestral burial rights.

But LHR argued for the Mampies family that in the light of their history at the farm, they should be allow to continue to bury family on the middle farm.

“This is particularly the case when they have had the long-standing practice and permission of previous landowners and/or persons in charge to bury family members in Middel-Plaas in accordance with their religion, customs and/or established practice,” LHR said.

On Thursday, Acting Judge Siphokazi Poswa-Lerotholi found the Mampies family did have the right in terms of the provisions of ESTA to bury De Wee, a mother of three, on Middel-Plaas with her family.

Read more on:    cape town  |  land

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