S&T evaluates programme for evicted farm workersStrategy and Tactics and South Consulting were commissioned by the European Union to conduct an evaluation of the farm workers eviction programme. The programme is aimed at assisting farm workers who have been threatened or have been evicted by farmers after having worked and stayed on a farm for longer than 10 years. S&T’s Nobayethi Dube describes the project.
Access and openness
The project focused on the Eastern Cape, where the National Land Committee (NLC) and the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) had been working together on the ground. We visited three farms where we spoke to a number of farm workers who had been assisted by the Border Rural Committee (BRC), an NLC affiliate in the Eastern Cape. The farms we visited were Komqa, Mooiplaas and Cathcart. Because of logistical problems we could not hold focus groups with the farm workers and had to hold discussions with families in both Mooiplaas and Cathcart. In Komqa a discussion was held with about fourteen men. Most of the participants had not directly been assisted through the farm workers project but knew that such a programme existed and were there so that they could raise their concerns.
The discussions at Mooiplaas were held with women who had had contact with BRC. They had been threatened with eviction by a new owner who wanted them to vacate the land. They then contacted BRC who held a workshop with them. The purpose of the workshop was to inform them about their rights as farm workers.
In Cathcart, we visited two families who had been threatened with evictions by a new owner. On that particular farm there was a widow who had decided to leave the farm because she was too scared to continue living there. The two families that had remained seemed to be comfortable with the arrangement, whereby they received a ration and their stock was allowed to graze.
Interviews were also held with local councillors and advice officers in Komqa. Both the councillors and the advice officers had been trained in the Extension of Security of Tenure (ESTA) legislation by BRC. The councillors and advice officers monitored any evictions and then reported to BRC if they knew of any farm worker who had come up to them seeking assistance.
Land was of course the main issue that came up in the discussions and interviews. In the male group discussion, most participants complained about how frustrated they were about access to land. They mentioned that they had stock and if they are evicted from the farm where would their stock graze? But even if farm workers got access to land they would still have to develop the land.
Issues of intimidation by farmers were also raised in this group. Participants mentioned that farmers intimidated farm workers who in turn would leave the farms. There was also concern about the number of illegal dismissals of farm workers in which they would then have to vacate farms, someTimes New Roman within a period of thirty days.
The women that we interviewed were concerned about the conditions that they were living in. The farmer (a new owner) had used every kind of intimidation to try and get them off the land. Although BRC had intervened, the women felt frustrated with having to live on that particular farm. The farmer wanted them to pay rent and they felt it was unfair because they were receiving very low wages.
The other issue for women was the fact even if they left the farm they would not be accepted by the village because farm workers are regarded as ‘low’ people. ‘If I leave here where will I go? People in the village will never accept us, I do not even want to mention the township, where am I supposed to go with my children’. The status and prospects of this floating rural population - not wanted on farms or in rural villages - is a real concern.