Seasonal farmworkers could face evictions

Seasonal farmworkers suffer from precarious living conditions. FIle Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Seasonal farmworkers suffer from precarious living conditions. FIle Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

Published Nov 17, 2022


Cape Town - About 25 seasonal farmworker-headed households stand to face possible eviction from public land if a case in the High Court is successful.

Women on Farms Project (WFP) and the Women’s Legal Centre are opposing the matter in a bid to highlight the precarious living conditions of seasonal farmworkers, who are increasingly faced with, or threatened with eviction.

Now at the pre-trial stage, the legal representatives of the parties involved, met with the judge at the Western Cape High Court, on Monday.

WFP co-director Carmen Louw said WFP applied to be an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) in the matter, represented by WLC. The hearing into the matter will likely take place in February 2023.

WFP dealt with 74 matters, impacting over 100 families, and affecting nearly 1 800 people.

“We deal with various tenure related matters such as court ordered evictions, illegal evictions and constructive evictions where water is disconnected, access to houses barred and the enjoyment of their tenure rights impacted and or threatened,” Louw said.

In this matter, adult workers from small Northern Cape towns were originally recruited by a labour broker.

“The initial ones started working on Cape farms more than 30 years ago. They currently reside on public land within Drakenstein municipality, but work as seasonal workers on well-known Stellenbosch farms,” Louw said.

WLC attorney Chriscy Bouws said the labour broker provided off-site accommodation to farm workers on land leased from Transnet.

Bouws said the labour broker had facilitated their employment on neighbouring farms, paying their salaries, and deducting rental for their accommodation.

“The labour broker breached his commercial lease contract and fell into arrears with Transnet, even though the occupiers were paying rentals to him over the years.”

Transnet cancelled the lease agreement with the broker and applied to the Western Cape High Court for the eviction.

Transnet spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi said the eviction process was instituted as there is currently no valid lease agreement between the two parties, the other identified as Vinicon.

“The lease agreement expired on May 31, 2015 and the month-to-month tenancy was cancelled on February 28, 2019.”

Shezi said late and non-payments of monthly rentals started in April 2017.

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Cape Argus

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