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Farm evictions

Campaigns failing to stop farm evictions, say civil society organisations

By | COVID 19, Eviction news, Eviction notice, Eviction orders, Farm evictions

Webinar highlights plight of women on farms, calls on President to honour promise

Photo of a woman with a microphone

Johanna Fransman was evicted from Soetendal farm and relocated to New Rest. She says she lost her son in January this year in a shack fire at New Rest. “I feel very disappointed in the municipality who say that they cannot give us houses. Our children are anxious to be outside, and you cannot even walk outside at night. I don’t want to be where I live,” she said.

  • Women who live on farms raised their concerns at a webinar hosted by various civil society organisations, saying little has changed for them since apartheid officially ended.
  • Thousands of people are facing evictions in the Boland.
  • The organisations compiled a memorandum of demands sent to the Department of Agriculture, Land reform and Rural Development.

Members of the Women on Farms Project (WFP) say despite campaigns, talk of stopping evictions on farms and the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of people face becoming homeless as eviction orders continue to be approved by the courts.

The women raised their concerns at an online webinar on Tuesday, held in partnership with Mawubuye Land Rights Forum, the Social Justice Coalition, and the Legal Resources Centre.

They demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa sign a moratorium on farm evictions, which they say he promised farmworkers in De Doorns and Paarl in 2014.

The WFP compiled a memorandum with a list of demands to put to the Department of Agriculture, Land reform and Rural Development. These include: the provision of land and decent housing for evicted farmworkers, ensuring that evictions are not granted if there is no land for alternative housing, and that government accelerate Land Expropriation without Compensation.

Director of WFP Colette Solomon said although the country celebrates 26 years of democracy, farmers “still have all the power, all the money and all the wealth”. She said, “Farmworkers, specifically women on farms, are becoming poorer. There are fewer jobs available; people are working for fewer hours; there’s more retrenchments and evictions.”

“There is more protection for farmworkers in terms of the laws but in terms of the structure of our society in rural areas, the structure is still the same [as during apartheid].

Co-director Carmen Louw said the evictions of farmworkers is a recurring issue despite the attempts of several organisations and campaigns to stop it.

“In the Drakenstein Municipality, there are more than a thousand cases on the current roll that are awaiting an outcome, and in most cases an eviction order will be granted. So, despite numerous and yearlong fights, many magistrates and land claims courts endorse these eviction orders.”

“We’ve got a supposedly superior Constitution but there’s basically no difference to the life that women in 1956 experienced in urban areas than what women on farms are still experiencing today,” said Louw.

The webinar was joined by several of the women from the Drakenstein area who were evicted from the Soetendal farm in 2015. They shared their experiences of being relocated by Drakenstein Municipality to an open plot in New Rest informal settlement. Diana Meyer of WFP and her family were among them. She said the eviction was a traumatic experience for the community.

“There weren’t proper doors or a proper foundation for the houses. Our things were thrown out and broken, while our children stood watching in confusion,” she said.

Meyers said her family do not feel safe where they now live and their living conditions are worse than when they lived on the farm.

“We feel so helpless. I just want the government to help us. We long for proper houses and for the government to give us a piece of land so that we can farm and have food to put on the table,” said Mayers.

Dawn Jacobs, of Drakenstein Civics, said that some farmers have forced workers to leave by cutting off the supply of water and electricity to their homes.

“When people are evicted and go to the municipality, they always say there’s no land available for houses and no land available for farmworkers. But the municipality is quick to approve land for private development,” said Jacobs.

“We don’t want to stay in shacks or townships. We want to remain on the farms,” she said.

The women also spoke of the violence used by law enforcement and the Red Ants when evicting farm workers, despite a moratorium on all evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Denia Jansen, of Mawubuye Land Rights Movement, said they had held several engagements with the Langeberg municipality regarding police brutality but to no avail.

“There’s no clear answer as to why they are using the Red Ants and law enforcement to evict people during this pandemic,” she said.

“Nothing will change until we stand united and unite our struggles regardless of which organisations we belong to. We all need to campaign for the same thing.”

Reprinted from GroundUp by

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za if you need advice on the eviction process or if you are facing unlawful eviction.

Further Reading:

Our farm had to evict people: It was lawful and justified

By | Eviction news, Farm evictions

Francina Petersen was dismissed for chronic absenteeism and offered alternative accommodation

Reprinted from GroundUp – 2020-03-12, by Lance Bouma

I was astonished to read in GroundUp that Francina Petersen, who had worked on our farm, Anura Vineyards, as a more absent then present bottle packer for five years and was dismissed for chronic absenteeism, “helped build the farm into the multi-million rand enterprise that it is today, boasting a winery, cheese factory, beer brewing, jam-making, wedding venue and restaurant”.

Eviction lawyers

The author, one of the owners of Anura Farm in the Cape Winelands, writes that a high profile eviction was done lawfully and justifiably. Photo supplied

I’m afraid Francina Petersen is not exactly truthful here. Perhaps because she is a tad jealous of her husband Chris who is the true entrepreneur of the Petersen family. Chris and Francina’s father, Marthinus Cupido, were arrested and charged with theft of diesel, which they were allegedly reselling on the farm.

I’ve no doubt that Barbara Maregele’s heartbreaking story of another victimised, vulnerable farm worker tossed on to the streets with her children would have even your most hardened reader reaching for the tissues. But they’ll be pleased to know that underneath Francina’s tearful exterior there is a steely resolve.

Francina told the Sheriff, in no uncertain terms, that she did not want to be taken to the alternative accommodation provided by me in La Rochelle but wanted to be dumped on the street outside our farm. This was so that she could get the maximum amount of media publicity. You have to admire her. She was prepared to camp outside, night after night with her husband and children for the greater good of the Petersen family.

But she was not alone. The community led by Carmen Louw of Women on Farms rallied around her “angered by yet another family on a farm left destitute by an eviction”. Some, of course, may argue that Chris Petersen’s substantially higher salary in the construction sector as an earthmoving operator doesn’t exactly qualify him as destitute.

Women on Farms’s director Colette Solomon, who is no slouch when it comes to exaggeration, claims that “they were concerned that the farm owners were trying to evict the rest of the Petersen’s family including her father and brother”.

In fact, Marthinus voluntarily moved off our farm two years ago and lives with his daughter in Klapmuts. He worked for Anura from 1989 to 2014 and on that basis Anura provided him with a house. His belongings remain undisturbed in the house as they did two years ago when he left the farm and moved to Klapmuts. Her brother, Jonathan, is still working on Anura.

In accordance with the rule of law in which — astonishingly, not only the farmworker but the farmer has rights — the Paarl Magistrates’ Court and Land Claims Court weighed the evidence and competing rights of the Petersens and the Boumas and granted an eviction order against the Petersens on 15 October 2019. This gave the Petersens just under four months, until 7 February 2020, to find alternative accommodation.

The Petersens, in accordance with their contractual agreement, which gave them a house as long as they were employed on the farm were evicted (after refusing to move out) to accommodate farm workers who are currently employed on the farm, and who are in need of housing.

Lance Bouma is one of the owners of Anura.

Chris Petersen denied the allegation of diesel theft.

Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.

Some links added by SD Law.

Eviction specialists

There are two sides to every story, as this article shows, and at SD Law we are expert eviction attorneys who weigh up all the facts, on both sides. We are eviction lawyers in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and we believe the landlord-tenant relationship should be built on trust. We act for both landlords and tenants and uphold the rights of each to a fair and satisfactory tenancy. If you  need help with an eviction, either as landlord or tenant, contact Simon at Cape Town Eviction Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

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Farm worker challenges authorities in court over housing

By | ESTA, Eviction news, Eviction notice, Evictions, Farm evictions

Municipality and province accused of not meeting constitutional obligations

A farm worker is to take the Drakenstein Municipality and the provincial Department of Human Settlements to court for their “failure to meet its constitutional obligation by not providing adequate emergency housing” to families facing eviction.

The worker, Eric Lolo, is bringing the matter to court on behalf of all farm dwellers in the region currently facing eviction and in need of emergency accommodation. The case will be heard in the Western Cape High Court in April. Farm worker rights organisation Women on Farms Project has been admitted as amicus curiae [friend of the court] in the matter.

Lolo, 60, shares a two bedroom home with his daughter Berenice Fransman and her child on Langkloof Roses farm in Wellington. Lolo said he had worked at Langkloof intermittently for about 20 years before he was retrenched in February 2014.

In August 2015, the farm’s owners, Greenwillows Properties, lodged an eviction application in the Wellington Magistrates’ Court against Lolo. They argued that according to the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA), the right of Lolo and his family to remain in the house at Langkloof ended along with his employment.

Lolo currently works on an estate in Simondium.

Representing the farm, attorney Ina-Mari Booysen said that despite having worked for the company years earlier, Lolo had only signed a written employment and housing agreement in February 2012.

“Mr Lolo was retrenched for operating requirements. He is being evicted because he is no longer working on the farm. The farm only offers housing to active staff,” she said.

“There is currently a need for housing for employees who must live on-site. This distress and Mr Lolo’s failure to vacate the premises voluntarily is why we instituted the eviction application. There were several occasions where [alternative] housing was discussed with Mr Lolo, among other things,” she said.

The ruling on Lolo’s eviction is pending the outcome of the High Court case. If he is evicted, Lolo told GroundUp, his family has “nowhere to go”.

“I was given R10,000 for all of the years I worked there. They want me to move but I have nowhere to go. My daughter is unemployed and they don’t have work for her there either,” he said.

“The company offered me a bungalow, but I have to find a place to put it.”

During the eviction hearing, the municipality was asked to provide emergency housing for Lolo in Simondium where he currently works. The municipality offered emergency housing at an informal settlement in Simondium, which was rejected by Lolo and his lawyer as the site was already overcrowded and lacked sufficient services.

“Have they [the municipality] seen what that place looks like or know what goes on there?” asked Lolo.

Representing Lolo, attorney Johan van der Merwe said they want the municipality’s housing selection policy — dated 28 October 2014 — declared unconstitutional and invalid.

Van der Merwe plans to argue that this policy precludes farm dwellers from benefiting from the 20% quota set aside for farm workers and dwellers in municipal housing projects.

“The municipality’s practice of relying primarily on money from the provincial government for the provision of emergency housing is unlawful. We want the municipality to be legally obligated to use its own financial resources for emergency housing,” he said.

Gerald Esau, Executive Director of Community Services at Drakenstein Municipality, told GroundUp that as of last week, they were aware of 55 households awaiting placement. He did not say how many people were affected.

The municipality has a budget of R1.2 million available for emergency accommodation. The provincial Department of Human Settlements gave about R12 million to develop a piece of land to house evictees. “The National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is however the lead government institution to address evictions on farms in terms of the Extension of Security Tenure Act. They must provide legal representation and also secure the permanent tenure [alternative accommodation] of evictees,” he said.

Esau said the municipality’s challenges included availability of funding and of suitable land, and the competing interests of evictees and of the communities where they are to be settled. “In Schoongezicht [in Paarl] for instance, the surrounding communities threatened to invade the site and even to harm the evictees unless they could also be accommodated in the project. The challenge is to find land and to get the buy-in from these communities,” he said.

Colette Solomon, co-director of the Women on Farms Project, in an affidavit to the court, said: “We will show that even from the evidence already on record, the living conditions of persons who are evicted from farms within the municipality’s jurisdiction, fall short of acceptable standards. Worse still, on the municipality’s own version, it has not prioritised the needs of the most vulnerable evictees: women and children. This is despite the constitutional injunction that they do so.”

Solomon believes that the evidence to be presented to the court “shows that the municipality’s failure to provide humane and an acceptable emergency accommodation for those evicted from farms in the manner similar to that of the applicants, violates the right to housing enshrined in the Constitution”.

Reprinted from GroundUp – 2020-02-20. Emphasis/links by SD Law.

Need help with an eviction matter?

Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. is a Cape Town law firm with offices in Cape Town, and now Johannesburg and Durban, of specialised eviction attorneys and property lawyers. We uphold the rights of landlords and tenants, including farm workers. Contact Cape Town Attorney for help with your eviction matter on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za. One of our Cape Town Eviction Attorneys will contact you right back.

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