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Labour Tenants

Squatters and evictions are part of the everyday news diet fed to us by South African media. That is because they are a reality in South African life, and addressing the tension between the rights of interested parties is not easily done.

The Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 19961 does so when it comes to farm labourers who live on the farm – that is, ‘labour tenants’. For the purposes of the Act, a labour tenant:

  • is residing, or has the right to reside on a farm;
  • has (or had) the right to use cropping or grazing land on the farm, or another farm belonging to the same owner, in return for which he provides labour; and
  • his parent or grandparent resided (or still resides) on the farm, or another farm belonging to the owner, and in return for which he provided (or still provides) labour.

An ‘associate’ means a grandparent, parent, spouse (including a partner in a customary union) or dependant of the labour tenant. If he dies, becomes mentally ill, or unable to manage his affairs, or leaves the farm voluntarily without appointing a successor, his family may appoint a ‘successor’.

  1. It is a criminal offence to remove or evict a labour tenant, or his associate, except on the authority of an order from the Land Claims Court.2

  2. The Director-General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform can appoint a mediator in order to attempt to settle a dispute. Anyone who obstructs or interferes with a mediator (or any official in the employ of the State) in the performance of his duties commits a criminal offence.3

  1. As amended; the latest amendment is in terms of Act 4 of 2011, effective 16 May 2011. 

  2. Section 15A(3) read with section 15A(1). 

  3. Section 15A(3) read with section 15A(2).