Apartheid-style Forced Removals Should Have No Place in a Constitutional Democracy

south africa ancestral land
Big man evictions: A resident of Mokwalakwala farm walks amid the ruins of homes of families who have lived there for generations. (Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media)

By Saadiyah Kadwa in response to an original article at Mail & Guardian.

“Without dignity, human life is substantially diminished”

The forced removals of black people from their homes, a strategy used by the apartheid government to enforce their racially-based land legislation, stripped people of their dignity as they witnessed their homes and possessions being demolished. 

The right to dignity and access to housing is entrenched in the Constitution, which gave rise to the enactment of laws that protect people who have insecure tenure in land.  

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) were enacted to protect the right to dignity, housing and property. Both Acts ensure that people cannot be evicted from land without a court order and any attempt at eviction without a court order is illegal. 

In the Modjadjiskloof town, Limpopo, the Mokwalakwala community who live on a farm, which is their ancestral home, are facing the harsh effects of the owner attempting to forcibly evict them by the destruction of their homes. In November 2018, the owner bulldozed the homes and possessions of the families. Many among those affected are elderly men and women who were born on the property and report that their parents had also born and died on the property. 

The Community currently live in makeshift shacks and canvas tents. Furthermore, even where some of their goods were salvageable, it is now being destroyed as a result of exposure to the elements.  The community protested and demanded that the owner rebuild their homes. Although, the owner has offered temporary shelter and to rebuild the homes – the families refused the offer as they cannot accept some of the harsh conditions attached to the offer.

The injustice of this case is based on the fact that the families have strong ties to the land which is their ancestral home; and many of the residents are elderly and report that their families have resided on the property for more than 200 years. The families are farm dwellers who should be accorded the protection offered by ESTA. However they are forced to resort to squatting on the farm and bear the brunt of the illegal action by the owner, whereas the owner has contravened the law without having to face any penalties for doing so.Land matters are integrally linked to the people’s right to dignity, which in the case of the Mokwalakwala Community, their right to dignity has been violated resulting in their quality of life being substantially diminished.

Saadiyah Kadwa

Saadiyah Kadwa completed her LLB and is currently working on her Masters Degree in Child Care and Protection at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.  Her interest is in protecting the rights of children, indigent, and vulnerable people. She volunteered at the UKZN Law Clinic and the Family Advocate’s Office in 2018.

Inspired by our history, the Constitution and international human rights standards, the LRC is committed to a fully democratic society based on the principle of substantive equality. The LRC seeks to ensure that the principles, rights and responsibilities enshrined in our national Constitution are respected, promoted, protected and fulfilled.