Illegal evictions occur in SA every day because people are unaware of their rights or the appropriate measures to take. Some are just too afraid to challenge the farmer, house owner or flat owner. Unlawful evictions are prevalent in the Free State involving farm workers and their families; according to Nomaswazi Tshabalala (Noma) one of our paralegal-journalist from the Ficksburg Community Advice Office. With the guidance of CJN, Noma spoke on illegal evictions on Setsoto FM (in The Free State). The show was directed at children of farm workers whose parents have died and as a consequence, they can no longer live on the property, and people who live in townships who were thrown out of their homes on farms without notice.
When asked why she chose the topic Noma said that they are looking to get responses from those people who have been evicted but left it unreported.
This is a sad reality in South Africa, even though in 1998 a law was put in place to prevent unlawful evictions. It was called the “Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act No. 19 of 1998” (the PIE Act). The Constitution of South Africa states that “No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of the court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.”
Since the law has been put in place we haven’t seen changes for some. For example, in Bloemfontein a group of about 70 Free State farm dwellers protested against farm evictions in Nov 29, 2004 Another case was in Xhariep district where an increasing number of farm eviction were recorded which prompted The South African Human Rights Commission’s Free State provincial office to embark on a three-day site visit to rural and farming communities. According to the provincial manager, Buang Jones, the site visit aimed at intensifying human rights awareness campaigns amidst an increasing number of farm eviction cases (via http://www.bloemfonteincourant.co.za).This human rights violation might be attributed to lack of transformation in the police service and the court of law.
Speaking on why the farm workers were evicted Noma said it could be because the farm dwellers are no longer of use to a new owner. This usually happens if the farm is passed on from a father to a child and the new owner wants different workers. At times the farm dwellers leave on their own, but not before they go through intimidation tactics, like being denied water or having their electricity being turned off. Recalling a case she witnessed prior to the show, Noma said that a farmer evicted a family from his property without a court order and with no prior warning. To remove them he loaded them in his car and dumped them and their kids on the side of a busy road. Noma made numerous attempts to get the farmer to acknowledge what he had done and to take back the family as they didn’t have any alternative accommodation. “The farmer was unwilling to negotiate,” Noma said. But after long talks with relevant departments who are against illegal evictions in the Free State, the farmer agreed to buy land nearby and build a two bedroom house for the family to live in, concluded, Noma.