ZIMBABWE style land invasions could become “inevitable” if evictions of farm workers persisted and farmers resisted change in land ownership, South Africa’s labour organisations have warned.

The slow pace of land redistribution has led to sporadic land occupations around the country.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Western Cape and the Bawsi Agricultural Workers’ Union of SA (Bawusa) on Tuesday threatened to bring farming to its knees if evictions continued.

Cosatu claimed there had recently been “mass evictions” on farms throughout the country and especially in the Western Cape.

The union federation said the evictions were the unintended consequence of land reform proposals announced recently by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

The minister proposed long-term farm workers be given a 50% equity share of the farms on which they worked, to speed up land reform.

His deputy minister, Mcebisi Skwatsha, said recently that 247 farm evictions, legal and illegal, in the Western Cape had been reported to the department.

Agri Wes-Cape CEO Carl Opperman on Tuesday dismissed the claims of mass evictions on farms. He said there were dismissals on two farms for “disciplinary reasons”, such as workers operating machines while under the influence of alcohol.

“We do not know of any mass farm evictions. Cosatu and the other unions should bring evidence to show us on which farms the evictions took place,” he said.

On Monday Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the Boland region and expressed concern about the rate at which workers were being evicted from their homes.

He said meetings between the government and farming unions were planned for this week with the aim of finding solutions to evictions.

Agri Wes-Cape said it had not been invited to any meeting with Ramaphosa.

Cosatu called for a moratorium on evictions pending the finalisation of the new land reform dispensation and its operational measures. Failure to comply would lead to large-scale occupation of farms, it said.


by Business Day