I have been living and working on a farm for 20 years. The owner passed away. Can the new owners evict me?

The short answer

The new owners cannot evict you without a court order. You are covered by the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997.

The whole question

I have been living and working on a farm as a driver and a cook for 20 years. The owner passed away on 11 June. There are now new owners. Can they evict me? Because I've got no job and nowhere to go. I just need some advice. Thank you.

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking if the new owners of the farm where you have lived and worked for 20 years can evict you.

The new owners cannot evict you without a court order.

You are covered by the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ESTA) if you do not earn more than R5000 a month and are not a labour tenant.

Under ESTA, you have special rights if you are a long-term occupier. We don’t know how old you are, but if you are older than 60 and have lived on the farm for ten years, you can stay on the farm for the rest of your life. The only way that you can be evicted is if you do not honour agreements that you have made with the owners, or if you do something seriously wrong. An eviction is only lawful if there is an eviction order from a court, and the eviction must also be just and equitable.

If a person has lived on a farm since before 4 February 1997, and has done nothing wrong, the court will not grant an eviction order unless there is alternative accommodation available where you can enjoy the same quality of life.

If you have lived and worked on the farm for 20 years, that would mean you moved there round about 1999. But even though you arrived there after 4 February 1997, the new owners still have to follow fair and legal procedures if they want you to leave.

That means they have to:

  • Give you two months written notice that they intend to apply for an eviction order.

  • Send a copy of this notice letter to the local authority and the provincial office of the Department of Land Affairs, to warn the municipality and the Department that they might need to make arrangements for alternative accommodation for you, and for mediation, if this is possible

The court will look at the following questions to decide whether it is just and equitable to evict you:

  • Was the original agreement between the occupier and the owner fair?

  • How did the parties conduct themselves?

  • How much is each party going to suffer if this eviction happens or does not happen?

  • Did you expect to stay on the land for a longer period?

  • Are there valid grounds for evicting you?

In a court enquiry, you have the right to have another person there to help you state your case. After the enquiry if the eviction order is granted, the owners must inform you of their decision in writing, and remind you that you have the right to take the matter to court if you disagree with the outcome of the enquiry.

The eviction order also has to be confirmed by the Land Claims Court before it can be enforced.

If you need help and advice, you could contact the following organisations:

PASSOP (People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty)

3 Hans Strijdom Avenue Lane
Tulbagh Centre Building (Room 413)
Cape Town 8001
Office Telephone: 0214182838
Office E-mail: office@passop.co.za

Lawyers for Human Rights www.lhr.org.za/

Linked to Programme: Security of Farm Workers Project

Telephone number:  021 424 8561

Physical address: 

4th floor, Vunani Chambers,

33 Church Street,

City Centre,

Cape Town

Answered on Aug. 26, 2019, 6:24 p.m.

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