09th December 2016
ATTENTION: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has issued a subpoena to Mr Vusi Shongwe, the Member of Executive Council (MEC), Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, Mpumalanga, to appear in person before the Commission on Friday, 9 December 2016. This notice to appear before the Commission was issued in terms of section 15 (1) (c) of the South African Human Rights Commission Act, No. 40 of 2013.
The notice to appear before the Commission arises out of a complaint, which it is alleged that the owners of Ryton Estate Farm, situated in Ngodwana, Mpumalanga sold the farm to the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs. The complainants further allege that this was done without the knowledge or consent of 214 farm workers, who were previously allocated portions of the farm. It is further alleged that the farm owners failed to pay the workers what was due in terms of the share agreement signed with them.
The Commission, had previously requested information from the Department regarding the case but received no response and therefore proceeded to exercise its powers in terms of the Act in respect of the investigation. The investigation is in progress.
The Commission is a state institution established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution of South Africa to support constitutional democracy and is mandated by the Constitution to “promote, protect, and monitor the observance of human rights in South Africa”. This means that the Commission must take steps to secure appropriate relief for the rights of vulnerable persons such as the farm workers in this matter through its investigation. Organs of state have a duty to cooperate with the Commission in the course of an investigation in terms of the Commission’s Act.
The Commission is particularly concerned with the incidents of exploitation and displacement of farm communities of which it has been advised. These communities, many mired in poverty, also struggle to access adequate services.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission
Gail Smith – Spokesperson, SAHRC
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