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South Africa: Small Farmers Celebrate Victory Outside Cape High Court

Housing Development Agency agrees to drop eviction proceedings

  • The Housing Development Agency has agreed to drop eviction proceedings against small-scale farmers in Riverlands, Malmesbury.
  • The farmers cheered outside the Cape High Court after the judge made the order to withdraw the case.
  • The two parties will now enter into negotiations.
  • The farmers want ownership of the land.

Government’s Housing Development Agency (HDA) has backtracked on its application to evict small-scale farmers living on a large piece of land in Riverlands near Malmesbury.

In the Western Cape High Court on Monday, after agreement by both sides, Judge Judith Cloete ordered that the application for the eviction be withdrawn, and that each party pay its own costs.

The judge suggested that the HDA enter into “meaningful engagement” with the community on a way forward.

The land, owned by the HDA, is occupied by over 100 small-scale farmers. The HDA initiated eviction proceedings in May 2022.

Some of the families have farmed there for generations. GroundUp reported on their plight in May this year.

Farmers facing eviction were inside and outside court on Monday. Many picketed on the steps. Signs read: “Since 1844” and “Give our land back to farm”.

The community was legally represented by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) and also supported by the Surplus People Project (SPP). After the ruling, farmers and family members gathered outside the court building and cheered, “Viva SERI, viva SPP”.

Jim Voster, who was facing eviction, said although that matter has been resolved, the farmers are “still not owners of the land”. He was concerned that negotiations with the HDA would come to nothing.

Small-scale farmer Veronica Baleni grows vegetables and has over 200 fruit trees. She said an order in 2019 that prevented farmers from further occupying the property or erecting more structures while the eviction process was in court had set them back. Not being owners of their land is restricting their farming, she said.

SERI lawyer Nkosinathi Sithole said they would help the farmers in negotiations with the HDA and would “be with them every step of the way”.

Wade Parker, development facilitator at SPP, said the court order would help bring about meaningful discussions between the parties.

“It’s an opportunity for small-scale-farmers to have their engagement, to say what their needs are … and a platform to start a discussion when it comes to their tenure,” said Parker.

Parker said small-scale farmers in the Western Cape in general receive little support from municipalities.

Housing Development Agency spokesperson Katlego Moselakgomo failed to respond to GroundUp at the time of publication, despite several deferred deadlines for comment. Comment will be added if received.

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