“The government, it seems, is prepared to weaken the very system of law that in the hands of independent courts is the ultimate protector of the poor.   If this bill is enacted without substantial amendment, or the government continues to weaken the courts, we will be starting down the road to a failed state”.

“The draft Land Tenure Security Bill is both frightening and revealing.   Frightening in that it threatens to undermine property rights and the rule of law.   Revealing in that it gives a glimpse of the distaste with which white farmers are regarded by the ruling party”.

Business Day published a letter today by Willem Cronje, an influential Free State farmer, Land tenure bill will be unworkable who warns the “draft Land Tenure Security Bill is both frightening and revealing”.

Here are some further extracts from the letter which should be read on the Business Day website:

Power relationship on farms needs to be changed

“The memoranda supporting the bill explain that it is needed to change the power relationships on commercial farms, which are skewed towards the farmer.   Workers are cruelly evicted in the middle of the night.   Farmers abuse and assault their workers, and deny them human rights and opportunities to seek healthcare and education, and to practise their culture.   In order to combat these abuses it is necessary to equate the power of farmers and their workers”.

Right to farm commercially, graze livestock and trade

“This will be achieved by granting workers who live on the farm the right to farm commercially.   They will have the reasonable right to graze livestock, and to plant and reap.   They will have the right to trade on the farm.   They will have the right to build houses.   Denying them these rights will be a crime, visited with a jail sentence of up to five years without option of a fine”.

Boards to replace courts and adversarial system of law

“Here is the most frightening development of all.   The memoranda supporting the bill reveal impatience with the bedrock of our legal system.   There is dissatisfaction that most eviction cases at magistrate’s courts are decided in favour of the farmer.   Instead of the government appealing, it appears to be considering in these cases doing away with our adversarial legal system by shifting power to people’s boards, presumably ‘pro-poor’”.