The threat of forced removal still hangs over at least 2 000 000 people in South Africa today — in spite of Government promises this year to stop such removals.
According to Laurine Platzky, co-ordinator of the National Committee against Removals, at least half of these are farm labourers who may be evicted from the land when they become too old or sick to work. Speaking at a Press conference in Cape Town last night to launch her book, “The Surplus People“, co-authored by Cherryl Walker, Platzky said: “Government policy on forced removals is incoherent, lacks consistency and is very confused.”
On the one hand, Minister of Co-operation and Development Gerrit Viljoen announced in February this year that forced removals were to stop. “On the other hand there are a lot of categories of people facing removal that are not included in this reprieve,” Platzky said.
Platzky said the farm workers were the largest category of South Africans threatened by removal. If a farm worker or labour tenant loses his job, the farmer is legally entitled to evict the entire family — “even if that family has lived on the farm for generations and knows no other home.”
“Farm workers are the lest likely to resist removal. They are not permitted legal trade-unions. They have no choice but to move to the bantustans. The farm labourers are at the bottom of the pile,” she said. The second largest category facing removal are the almost 1 000 000 people who may be forced off their land to make way for homeland consolidation.
“This is in terms of the 1975 proposals. We are still waiting for the recommendations of the Commission on Co-operation and Development. We welcome government assurances that people will not be forced to move against their will, but there are many who still feel threatened by possible removal,” she said.
The government has assured communities facing possible removal that they will not be uprooted without consultation. Viljoen is on record as saying communities must not fear that they will be removed without due notice.
“The question our committee has to ask is — what about the difference between consultation and negotiation? It is possible to consult a community to tell them when and how they will be removed. That is not negotiation.”