A group of farm dwellers alleged various infringements and rights

violations at an imbizo in Howick on Sunday.

 

The family of a woman who claimed her house was destroyed by a farmer in the Karkloof area last year said she was not being entirely truthful.

The Witness spoke to two family members of Thembi Thusi following her claims that the family home was illegally demolished in April last year.

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The family members said Thusi knew that the family was approaching UCL Company to buy them a house of their choice.

Thusi was among a group of farm dwellers who alleged various infringements and rights violations at an imbizo in Howick on Sunday arranged by the provincial government and the national Department of Land Reform and Rural Development represented by Minister Thoko Didiza.

The family said they were living in a mud house with their mother who had had a stroke and after several heavy rains, the house was damaged.

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They said they agreed on approaching UCL — the owner of the Shawswood Farm where the Thusi family had lived for a number of years — for a new house since then they didn’t have the means to fix the old one.

“On the day we were moving, she left the house saying she was not involving herself in this and we took all the furniture and documents we needed to the new home,” the family members said, contradicting Thusi’s claims that furniture and personal documents were destroyed when the home was demolished.

The family added they took all of their removables with them.

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The deed of settlement, which The Witness has seen, stated that Thusi and members of her family agreed to vacate the farm after UCL agreed to help them financially with R300 000 to purchase a house.

The family bought a two-bedroom house with a lounge, dining room, bathroom, kitchen and a garage for R240 000 in the uMngeni Municipality district and also received the remaining R60 000 in cash.

Responding to the allegations by her family that she’s lying, Thusi said that she didn’t know that her family had signed a deed of settlement.

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Rob McCarthy from McCarthy Attorneys which represents a number of farms including UCL, confirmed Thusi took them and her family members to court after the deed of settlement was signed.

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McCarthy added that the court told Thusi that her matter was in the wrong court and that her mother was the one who had right to make decisions about the house.

Chairperson of the Howick District Land Owners Association Kevin Barnsley said this was an “election” hearing.

Barnley said two weeks ago they issued a warning to the employers in the rural economy [farmers] to comply with everything needed by the Department of Labour and that anyone who is paying below the minimum wage and is in violation of other laws will be prosecuted.

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The department has been sending employees from outside the province to check if they are compliant in the uMngeni Municipality.

Barnsley said as farmers they are irritated that they were lambasted and made into pawns.

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McCarthy also said that negotiations between farmer and farm dwellers are conducted in good faith and it’s always done in both English and IsiZulu so everyone understands.

On the issue of cattle being confiscated, McCarthy referred to a case mentioned by ANC Provincial Chair Sibinoso Duma regarding Kobeni Zondi, who had his 13 cattle impounded.

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McCarthy said Zondi was warned on numerous occasions about his cattle that were roaming onto the road and destroying plantations on the farm. He said more than 10 letters in a space of five years were sent to him.

He added UCL even offered to pay for a brand new fence.

Siya Sithole, strategy manager from the Association for Rural Advancement Land Rights Advocacy, said power relations continue to be skewed in farming communities in favour of farm owners despite both the rights of farm owners and farm dwellers being protected and promoted not only by the provisions of the South African Constitution, but by specific statutes such as the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (Esta), Labour Tenants Act, Restitution Act, Labour Relations Act and others.

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“Specific provisions of the Labour Tenants Act and the Restitution Act gave way to thousands of land claims being lodged with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) respectively. The slow pace of the country’s land reform programme has caused the failed levelling of power relations between owners of land and the landless,” said Sithole.

 

This article was originally published at: The Witness  (https://witness.co.za/news/kzn/2024/05/14/family-disputes-farm-eviction-allegations-as-farmers-slam-imbizo/)