Press Release: Tshintsha Amakhaya welcomes a victory for labour tenants


Tshinstha Amakhaya welcomes the Constitutional Court ruling in favour of a special master to oversee the implementation of the Labour Tenants Act, as directed by the Land Claims Court in December 2016. We join thousands of labour tenants – and other farm dwelling communities – in celebrating this judgment.

On Tuesday, 20 August 2019, labour tenant claimants came victorious at the highest court in the land when Justice Cameron handed down a judgment at Constitutional Court of South Africa declaring the Land Claims Court have power to appoint Special Master.

This ruling speaks to the plight of labour tenants which became the subject of court proceedings since 2013 in the Land Claims Court.

In 1996, parliament passed the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, known as LTA, to secure the tenure rights of labour tenants and former labour tenants – including regulating their tenure and prohibiting illegal evictions. However, the implementation of the LTA suffered from a great neglect with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) failing to implement the law since the early 2000s. Just in 2011, upon the closing date of claims lodged with DRDLR – there were around 22 000 claims.

In 2013, our partner – the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) – brought a class action on behalf on labour tenants’ claimants with unsettled claims against the DRDLR for failing to carry out its constitutional mandate. To date, there are about 10 914 labour tenant claims which remain unresolved, meanwhile, a significant number of farm evictions has taken place.

On 8 December 2016, Judge AJ Ncube ruled that the DRDLR was in breach of its constitutional obligations and ordered that a Special Master of Labour Tenants be appointed to process claims. The judgement required the Special Master to report to the Court on progress. However, government appealed the ruling.

On 23 May 2019 with labour tenant claimants and land activists under the banner of Tshintsha Amakhaya as part of two-day mass action entitled #OurLandNow, we marched to the Constitutional Court to appeal an earlier Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment which rejected arguments to appoint a Special Master to oversee the implementation of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act.

On 24 May 2019, we marched to the Constitution Hill to deliver a memorandum of demands to the Presidency, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). Labour tenants made these specific demands:

• A clear plan to process long outstanding labour tenant claims.
• That Labour tenants must be given strong rights to the land that they have been living and working on, farms must be registered in the name of the people who actually work the land.

This ruling impacts on thousands of labour tenants who lodged claims with the DRDLR between 1996 and 2001 – with their cases remaining incomplete.

Our partner organisations and their constituencies who are farm workers, farm dwellers, smallholder farmers, fisher folk, forest dwellers, livestock keepers, people on communal land and people on church land welcome this milestone which marks the first appointment of a Special Master in the country, and the possibilities it sets.