Twenty years after the end of apartheid farm dwellers remain some of the most vulnerable people in South Africa, with many still facing extreme tenure insecurity and lacking access to adequate housing and basic services.2 The approximately three million black South Africans (6% of the population) who live on privately owned farms in formerly white commercial farming areas are among the poorest South Africans,3 whose vulnerability is exacerbated by their “socio-economic marginality and geographical isolation”.4
These inequalities have persisted despite the introduction of a number of fundamental rights in the South African Constitution which provide essential protections to farm dwellers, including the promotion of tenure security to previously disadvantaged persons, the right of access to adequate housing and the right of access to adequate water, food and health care. In fact, since 1994 a variety of laws and policies have been put in place to give effect to the constitutional imperative for land reform, and to regulate and improve the rights and living conditions of farm dwellers. However, in spite of these new laws and policies many farm dwellers continue to live in fear that they may lose their homes or rights to land.
It is in this light that the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) conceived of the Pathways Project. The project aims to find pathways out of poverty for people living on farms they do not own by facilitating and building consensus between farm owners, farm dwellers and the state on how to realise the rights of farm dwellers. The project identifies as a key underlying cause of poverty on farms the absence of an administrative framework that secures the tenure of labour tenants, farm workers and occupiers, and which can provide them with access to a range of essential services, such as access to adequate housing, water, electricity and sanitation services. A critical component of the project is the development of a report which details and examines the existing legal and regulatory framework governing farm dwellers’ tenure security and access to essential services and tries to understand why farm dwellers remain so vulnerable.
This report has therefore been developed to assist non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and public interest law practitioners in navigating the highly complex legal and policy framework regulating farm dwellers’ rights to tenure security and access to adequate housing and basic services, as well as understanding the various roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. In doing so, the report provides a comprehensive analysis of the legislation, policies, case law and financial mechanisms associated with farm dwellers’ tenure security, access to adequate housing and basic services, and considers why the legal and policy framework has not been able to adequately protect the rights of farm dwellers. It is hoped that the report might act as a guide to farm dwellers, farm owners, NGOs, lawyers and government officials.
The research for this report was conducted by way of a desktop review of the primary and secondary sources related to farm dwellers’ tenure security and access to adequate housing and essential services. This included a comprehensive review of relevant legislation, regulations, policies, procedures, key case law,5 best practice approaches, financial mechanisms and media reports. In addition, the research included an in-depth review of the literature on farm dwellers’ tenure and access to services, including academic papers, research reports, and opinion pieces.
Authors and Publishers
AFRA is a land rights advocacy non-governmental organisation (NGO) working since 1979 to support marginalised black rural people, with a focus on farm dwellers. We are working towards an inclusive, gender equitable society where rights are valued, realised and protected, essential services are delivered, and land tenure is secure. We work intensively with communities in and around the uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and extensively in offering support and advice.