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Elder who lived on farm for 76 years wins court bid to be declared labour tenant

Vuyo James

THE Land Claims Court in Durban has ruled in favour of a 76-year-old woman who sought the court to prove that she is a labour tenant after attempts to classify her only as a farm worker.

Mothi Evelina Zuma sought a declaration that she is a labour tenant on a portion of land of Maritzdal 940, commonly known as Beinn Mheadhon situated in Dargle in the district of Umgeni in KwaZulu-Natal.

The court heard that Zuma resides on the farm and she has been residing there since her birth on 20 April 1945.

First defendant Ian Sinclair – the farmer — and third defendant Sunshine Street Investment 66 (PTY) LTD – the owner of the land — opposed the declaration.

However, Judge Muzikawukhelwana Thomas Ncube ruled that the defendants failed to adduce evidence that Zuma was paid for her labour for the first defendant’s father, and there was no contract.

“…to qualify as a farm worker the person must be employed on a farm in terms of a contract of employment which provides that in return for the labour which she provides to the owner or the lessee, she shall be paid predominantly in cash or some other form of remuneration and not predominantly in the right to occupy and use land.

“In casu, the Defendants failed to prove the existence of the contract of employment,” Judge Ncube said in his ruling.

The court heard that Zuma was taken out of school and provided labour as a domestic at the age of 12 for the first defendant, Sinclair’s mother. Zuma’s daughter Vera Zuma was nine years old when she was also taken out of school to provide labour as a nanny to Sinclair’s children.

Both mother and daughter were not paid for their labour in order to continue residing on the farm, which is apparently normal for labour tenants.

Vera told the court that she knew her great grandparents Bhoyi and Harriet. They were residing on the farm kwaNgonya. They had a right to crop and graze cattle. They cropped beans, maize and other vegetables and kept livestock in the form of cattle and horses. The great grandparents died when Vera was 7 or 8 years old.

Merits of the case

Judge Ncube said the defendants failed to prove that Zuma is a farm worker by wrongly interpreting the provisions in the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, Act No. 3 of 191996 (the Act). The defendants had wanted Zuma to prove that she is not a farm worker in addition to proving that she is a labour tenant

“The fundamental principle of our law is that he who alleges must prove. Therefore, ordinarily, the Plaintiff would have been expected to prove that she is a labour tenant and not a farm worker,’’ Judge Ncube continued.

“However, the onus resting on the Plaintiff to prove that she is a labour tenant not a farm worker, is eased by section 2(5) of the Act.”

The section says: “(5) If in any proceedings it is proved that a person falls within paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the definition of  “labour tenant’’ that person shall not be presumed a farm worker, unless the contrary is proved.”

Zuma’s grandparents lived and worked on the farm. At a certain period her mother used to live at the farm too. The grandparents had use of land by way of grazing cattle and growing crops. The court heard that Zuma herself provided labour on the farm in the form of domestic duties, and grazed cattle at the farm.

In the Act, labour tenant is defined as a person: “(a) who is residing or has the right to reside on a farm; (b) who has or has had the right to use cropping  or grazing land on the farm, referred to in paragraph (a), or another farm of the owner, and in consideration of such right provides or has provided labour to the owner or lessee; (c) whose parent or grandparent resided or resides on a farm and had the use of cropping and grazing land on such farm or another farm of the owner, and inconsideration of such right provided or provides labour to the owner or lessee of such or such other farm, including a person who has been appointed a successor to a labour tenant in accordance with the provisions of section 3(4) and (50 but excluding a farm worker.” –

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