On 25 and 26 June 2019, SERI hosted a training-of-trainers workshop on the Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 (ESTA) with the Surplus Peoples Project (SPP) and Matzikama Farmworkers Forum. The purpose of the two-day workshop was to equip participants from various organisations with a clear understanding of the tenure protections offered under ESTA in order to assist them in their work of protecting and advocating for the rights of farm dwellers across the Western Cape.
In attendance were roughly 30 participants, who together represented the following organisations: The Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), Matzikama Farmworkers Forum (MFF), Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), Citrusdal Advice Office, Cederberg Farmworkers Forum, Swartland Forum and the Women on Farms Project (WFP).
Each session of the workshop focused on a particular section of ESTA. This was accompanied by fact sheets which answered the topical questions including, “Does ESTA protect my Rights?”, “What does ESTA mean by occupier?” and “What does ESTA mean by consent?”. These resources were used in conjunction with the SERI publication “Protection against eviction under the extension of security of tenure act: legal rules, principles and process” by Advocate Irene De Vos, who conducted sessions in both English and Afrikaans.
Throughout the workshop, participants were able to engage both each other and facilitators in asking relevant questions and sharing practical experiences. From these discussions, it emerged that the most common grievances held by farmworkers were issues surrounding access to basic services such as water and electricity. Many of the participants had questions concerning whether or not a farm owner was allowed to discontinue access to services, and whether the farm owner was allowed to conduct an eviction of farm dwellers without the presence of a sheriff. SERI emphasised that an eviction is illegal if it is not executed by a sheriff in possession of a valid court order and that disconnecting connections to water or electricity could constitute a constructive eviction.