First published on the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) website.
As we watched and recorded over 90 Labour Tenants and supporters march to the Land Claims Court in Randburg, Johannesburg, on Friday 29th January, I found myself awash in a whirl of emotions. Hope, elation and anxiety all swirled along with the familiar songs and chants, memories of struggles past of which I had only read, the loud blaring of the police sirens, and the sun already high and holding the promise of the heat of the long day ahead.
As an advocacy-focused land rights non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) works to empower communities to understand and be able to express their rights, and to voice their stories directly. There remain, however, spaces within which we inevitably find ourselves writing and speaking on their behalf, particularly when it comes to complex legal arguments and Court processes.
It was therefore especially significant to have as many Labour Tenants as we could afford to mobilise come to the Court itself on this day, despite the great distances, high costs, and the need for them to travel through the night without any sleep in order to attend.
Sakhe Mchunu, from the Ravensworth Community in uMshwathi, KwaZulu Natal, comes from a Labour Tenant community that has worked with AFRA at various times over the last two decades as they have searched for solutions to a wide array of challenges. He has attended countless meetings with landowners, Government Departments and AFRA itself to try and negotiate reasonable settlement options, and while he has shared with me his frustrations at the many years of what has sometimes felt like hopeless struggle, he has yet to give up. Speaking to the media outside the Court on Friday he expressed his wish: “Being as we are here, we hope that the Court can assist us to pressurise the Government to bring back the land to the farm dwellers.”