The practice of farm labourers working for farmers in exchange for the right to live on the land was designed during apartheid as a means to deprive black workers of land rights. In recent years, land reform has become a central theme in addressing remnants of the old political and socio-economic order. To this extent the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 1996, as amended, empowers the state to expropriate land from landowners as a means of making such land available for acquisition by labourers who have worked the land historically and up to the present day.
Our partners at the Legal Resources Centre have been instrumental in leading this struggle for land. In the case of the Msiza family, Amos Msiza worked on a farm in Rondebosch, Cape Town for 67 years. In 1996 he lodged a claim for land in terms of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act where the Land Claims Court ruled in his favour. The amount of compensation due to the landowners, as determined by the Land Claims Court, was less than the market value of the land and it is this decision that the LRC have recently defended in the Supreme Court of Appeal. The LRC have argued that using the market value of land as the sole consideration to determine compensation would undermine efforts to speed up the process of land reform. Instead it argues that the transformative purpose of land reform ought to play a decisive role in determining a just and equitable compensation. The decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal in this case will be instructive in cases that follow, with the most immediate being the 200 households living on agricultural land in Cleveland, Johannesburg. The LRC represent the occupiers of this land and the cost of compensation to be paid to the landowners is currently being contested.