Land & Housing Programme
The Land Reform Programme is aimed at redressing the inequitable distribution and ownership of land in South Africa. However, despite a government target to redistribute 30% of white-owned land by 2914, to date less than 5% has actually been redistributed which is unacceptably slow given the demands and needs of people. Furthermore, most of the land that has been redistributed has been transferred to men. Thus, despite government rhetoric about prioritising black women's access to land, there are no gender equity mechanisms which actually recognise the unequal gender and power relations which affect access and control over land and resources. Thus, the rural landscape has largely remained unchanged in terms of gender, class and land ownership.
Between 1994 and 2004, a million farm workers were evicted from the commercial farms on which they had often worked and lived for generations. A number of factors have given rise to the growing incidence of farm worker evictions. First, post-apartheid labour and tenure legislation has had the perverse result of a farmer backlash which has partly manifested in farm worker evictions from farms. Second, the growing trend towards casualisation of agricultural labour has contributed to increased farm worker evictions as farmers draw on seasonal labour for whom they do not provide housing.
While legislation enacted to provide farm dwellers with certain tenure rights and protection, the widely-documented limitations of these laws have been used by farmers to obtain so-called "legal" evictions of farm workers. Far from protecting farm dwellers, these laws have effectively provided farmers with a procedure for evicting farm dwellers. Farmwomen face specific housing and tenure insecurities arising from the patriarchal practice where a farmwoman's housing rights are tied to the (permanent) labour contract of her male partner.
The Programme aims to contribute to ensuring that the needs of farm dwellers, especially farmwomen, are addressed in the race, class and gender transformation of the South African countryside so that black women enjoy independent and secure access and control over land, housing and other productive assets, and occupy a legitimate space as independent landowners and producers within agriculture.
Crisis Committees / Land Rights Forums: Three farm worker community land rights structures have been established in eviction "hot spots" – i.e. areas where there are particularly high levels of farm worker evictions – in Stellenbosch, Rawsonville and Ceres, including informal settlements where there are high concentrations of evicted farm workers. Provided with training in land and housing rights, the structure members are not only able to assert their own rights, they are also able to advise other workers and even intervene in violations.
- Informed of their land rights, land rights structures have provided advice to other farm workers, and also successfully intervened in cases of illegal evictions and housing rights violations, resulting in farm worker families remaining on farms.
- The mixed-sex land rights structures comprise a majority of women, as does the leadership of these structures.
- The leadership capacities of women in these structures have been strengthened so that they have played a leading role in engaging, intervening and representing farm dwellers, especially highlighting women's specific vulnerabilities, demands and priorities with respect to independent tenure security and access to land.
- A focused research study on farm worker evictions in one informal settlement in Rawsonville has been conducted and demonstrated that farm worker women and children are disproportionately affected by farm worker evictions.