Spike in illegal evictions at Western Cape farms
Human Rights commissioner, Chris Neesen, said his office was inundated with reports of illegal farm evictions, especially in the Ceres, Somerset West and Worcester areas.
“I’m dealing with more than 20 cases of evicted families in Ceres, Somerset West and Worcester,” Neesen said.
The commissioner added there were a few cases opened by Rawsonville, Spooky Town residents in Worcester. He described their current living conditions as “horrible and must-see”.
“These involved several families and hundreds of individuals; we’re dealing with that right now,” he said.
Neesen said the evictions reported were handled, in most cases, “illegally and in a brutal manner”.
He plans to hold public hearings in farms throughout the province.
Neesen said farmers were exploiting loopholes in the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA). This is done through what farm activists call “constructive evictions” and intimidation.
One such case was that of Anneline Arendse, who lives on Schalk Burger senior’s farm in Wellington.
Arendse claims Burger was still threatening her after she opened a case of crimen injuria for allegedly calling her a "hotnot" during an argument this year.
“He stopped just in front of my house (on Wednesday), and gave me a cold stare for a few minutes."
“I’m really scared because he’s threatened me before. I have children to think about. It’s intimidation tactics. He did it last week too.”
Burger senior ignored questions posed to him via email by Weekend Argus, and his son Tiaan Burger, referred queries to police.
The case is under investigation according to a statement released by the provincial police.
Vuyani Nkasayi, spokesperson for Rural Development and Land Reform, said the department had no record of the Burger case.
He said the department hoped to engage with NGOs in a session aimed at informing farmworkers and farm dwellers about tenure rights with a particular focus on ESTA and farm evictions.
According to a Women on Farms report, due to be released soon, of the more than 300 women interviewed, 41% reported they were still being paid less than the legal minimum wage.
The NGO had dealt with 30 cases of formal and constructive evictions in the past year.
Colette Solomon, Women on Farms director, said a detailed report on farm evictions and treatment of farmworkers would be released this month.
“Our research confirms that a range of laws are broken by farmers in both the Western Cape and the Northern Cape,” she said.
According to the report, 75% of women who are paid fortnightly were paid less than the legal minimum wage and 75% of women who are paid monthly were paid less than the legal minimum wage.
“This is a violation of the Labour Department’s sectoral determination for farm workers,” Solomon said.