HomeBusinessSouth Africa agriculture body denies backing evictions call

South Africa agriculture body denies backing evictions call

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JOHANNESBURG — THE Agriculture Sector Unity Forum, a voluntary association of agricultural associations, on Monday distanced itself from reports that it had endorsed a call by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for farmer organisations to impose a moratorium on farm worker evictions.

With tensions rising on farms, especially in the Western Cape following recent farm worker evictions, Ramaphosa at the weekend announced a ban on legal and illegal farm evictions.

Ramaphosa made the announcement of the moratorium on evictions after he and a delegation of ministers met at the weekend with agricultural and farm labour representatives in Paarl, just outside Cape Town.

He said the ban on evictions was a temporary measure which would be implemented “immediately”, and would remain in force until at least next year when a follow-up meeting would be held to find “concrete solutions” to the issue.

Gugile Nkwinti
Gugile Nkwinti

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and unions representing farm workers, said last month that the evictions were the unintended consequence of land reform proposals announced earlier this year by Rural Development and Land Reform minister Gugile Nkwinti.

He proposed long-term farm workers be given a 50% equity share of the farms on which they worked, to speed up land reform.

Cosatu in the Western Cape and the Bawsi Agricultural Workers’ Union of South Africa (Bawusa) has threatened to bring farming to its knees if evictions continued.

Agriculture Sector Unity Forum chairman Japie Grobler said on Monday that although Ramaphosa’s call might have referred to stopping illegal evictions, to which all parties would agree, it probably included legal evictions — “an instrument also available to and used by the State to manage untenable tenure arrangements on its own properties”.

“A call for a moratorium on the application of the statute in terms of which legal evictions are regulated seems, from an agricultural and legal perspective to be undesirable, unpractical and nonenforceable. The required concessions, therefore, fall outside the mandates of Agriculture Sector Unity Forum members,” Grobler said.

He said that evictions were governed by legislation and compliance was mandatory.

“Contraventions, namely illegal evictions, should be dealt with accordingly,” he said.

“It was proven in the past that timeous mediation may resolve many disputes, avert unnecessary evictions or facilitate acceptable outcomes to those who stand to lose housing on farms.

“While a humane approach is imperative when dealing with these matters, there should also be full recognition of compelling circumstances which may necessitate evictions. (The forum) is, however, willing to participate in discussions which may contribute towards a mutually acceptable outcome of this discourse and will consult its members regarding proposals.”

The ANC in the Western Cape called on Ramaphosa to approach Cabinet to formalise the “strict moratorium on the eviction of farm labourers with harsh consequences for breaches”.

ANC Western Cape spokeswoman on agriculture Sharon Davids said: “If it is true that the industry does not want to come to the party honouring a voluntary suspension in all the arbitrary evictions . . . then our national government must explore legal and other means to enforce a formal moratorium in order to stabilise and bring legal certainty to the many ‘creative’ means of farmers to use legislation to kick workers off farms.”

– BDLive

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