Programme For Farm Dwellers: Potential Collaboration On Cooperation

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) has commenced engagements with civil society organisations aimed at discussing proposals for addressing farm-dweller related matters. A Farm Dweller Implementation Plan is ‘intended to promote and protect the rights of farm dwellers, and provide them with permanent and secure tenure in a sustainable manner’ according to the department.

Speaking at a maiden meeting, the Director at DRDLR Thami Mdontswa acknowledged that Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 (ESTA) and Land Reform – Labour Tenants – Act (LTA) have not achieved their intended outcomes. Moreover, he further alluded that there has been poor enforcement and ‘the project by project approach’ is slow and inefficient. “There are no mechanisms of monitoring evictions and other right violations on commercial farming areas,” he said.

Mdontswa said as part of efforts to address issues farm dwellers are faced with, the department would like this plan to be developed in consultation with civil society organisations, organised agriculture, farm dwellers and other stakeholders such as municipalities and other government departments key in the provision of services at the farms.  

Modwantswa was speaking at the meeting held on 31 August at Kopanong Hotel between DRDLR and LandNNES, a civil society national network focussed on Land Governance in South Africa. The request from DRDLR to have the meeting was spurred by a meeting between the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) and DRLDR to discuss various farm dwellers related matters.

Following the establishment of the LandNNES network in May 2018, DRDLR indicated an interest in discussing proposals for addressing farm dweller related matters with LandNNES. The DRDLR was first invited to address the network’s workshop held on the 30 July 2018, which Mdontswa did.

For the Land National Network Engagement Strategy (LandNNES), according to Lisa Del Grande – its facilitator, the network sees an opportunity in the national engagement around a focussed farm dweller programme and policy. “A key critique by LandNNES members of the current land reform policy framework is that it is not working as intended and requires a serious review. We have identified three focus areas in Land Governance matters one of which is How South Africans are enabled to gain access to land and to secure land rights. This requires a review of all the current programmes of redress and equitable land access.

In this focus area, many of our members have also worked closely with families who have resided on commercial farm lands for many generations who continue to have extremely insecure land rights and limited or no access to socio-economic development opportunities. Over the years there have been campaigns by our members, severally and together, along with farmdweller organisations calling for a focussed national land reform programme for families on farms.  The DRDLR’s recent request to civil society to work with them in developing such a programme offers a potential opportunity, for the first time, for civil society to influence a serious policy initiative,” said Del Grande

She also said that the network is aware that there are a number of civil society organisations who are not currently active in the network who have embarked on processes that can impact of farm dwellers and any national programme that is developed, these include policy around farmworker housing and the calls for a Moratorium on evictions.  “As LandNNES we will also be actively attempting to connect with those organisations on these issues as they are critically important and have also been identified by our members in our discussion terms to the DRDLR,” concluded Del Grande.

Sobantu Mzwakali writes for LandNNES