Legislation aims to close land-tenure loopholes

Legislation aimed at closing loopholes in land tenure will be published on Friday, the Rural Development Department said on Thursday.

The draft Land Tenure Security Bill “heralds a new dawn and hope for a better life for millions of farm dwellers throughout South Africa”, the department said in a statement.

Many of these people had “fallen victim to arbitrary evictions, perpetual inhuman treatment and denial of basic human rights by some land owners”, it said.

The Bill sought to address loopholes in two current Acts — the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) and the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act (LTA) — which were passed to provide security of tenure to persons residing on farms.

However, the Bill went beyond providing for basic human rights as promised by the Constitution, and also addressed the need for productive use of agricultural land to meet the vision of sustainable, equitable and vibrant rural communities and food security.

Harmonious relations
Among other things, the Bill provided for:

  • The continued protection of the rights of people living and working on farms;
  • A support framework for sustainable livelihoods for persons living and working on farms that would, among other things, address the need for sustained food production and production discipline;
  • State assistance in the settlement, on alternative land, of interested and affected persons; and
  • The acquisition of rights in land for resettlement.

The department said “public outcry, petitions by farm dwellers, civil society and rural service organisations, as well as media reporting and documentation of perpetual human rights abuses by some farmers” clearly pointed to the inadequacy of the ESTA and LTA to curb arbitrary evictions.

“The Bill will, in the long term, achieve the separation of farm workers’ labour related rights/obligations from those relating to residence on farm land.”

It also sought to create harmonious relations on farms, and establish agri-villages to deal with tenure security within the context of sustainable human settlement and food production.

The department has invited public comment on the Bill, which can be sent to: [email protected], or [email protected], or [email protected], or by fax to 0866 92 88.

Public consultations will also be conducted early in 2011. — Sapa

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