Sowetan 30 July 2019
A judgment ordering a municipality to provide basic services for farm workers came too late for centenarian Zabalaza Mshengu who died last year.
The Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday delivered a hard-hitting 35-page judgment, declaring that the three municipalities’ “ongoing and persistent failure” to provide the farm occupiers and labour tenants residing within their areas of jurisdiction with access to basic sanitation, sufficient water and collection of refuse was “inconsistent with the Constitution”.
The judgment was on a case against three KwaZulu-Natal municipalities which failed to provide access to basic services such as water and sanitation to farm workers and farm occupiers.
Mshengu, 104, was one the three applicants in the case against Msunduzi, Umgungundlovu and uMshwathi municipalities in which the farm occupiers and labour tenants were represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC). The farm occupiers and labour tenants resorted to the courts after they had repeatedly requested the municipalities to provide them with basic services without any success. Judge Jerome Mnguni ruled in favour of Mshengu and his two co-applicants Thembisile Ngema and the Association for Rural Advancement – a Pietermaritzburg-based land rights advocacy NGO.
He ordered the municipalities to:
Install a sufficient number of user connections to supply a minimum quantity of potable water of 25 litres per person per day or six kilolitres per household per month to farm occupiers and labour tenants; Ensure that water use connections
● supply water at a minimum flow rate of not less than 10 litres per minute; and Ensure that the water user
● connections supplied are within 200 metres of the farm occupier’s households. Mnguni also ordered the municipalities to provide farm occupiers and labour tenants with access to basic sanitation by installing ventilation improved pit (VIP) toilets per each household. The VIP toilets should conform to the required specifications.
The municipalities were also ordered to provide the farm occupiers and labour tenants with refuse collection services. “Zabalaza” is a Zulu word for “standing firm or planting oneself firmly on the ground or refusing to give way”, and that is how Mnguni described Zabalaza Mshengu in his judgement. “In the context of this application it is the first name of the first applicant Mr Mshengu, a centenarian who has since sadly passed away. “He refused to give up the struggle for access to sufficient water, basic sanitation and collection of refuse for farm occupiers and labour tenants until he was called to rest on 13 August 2018 at the age of 104.” Mshengu lived with his family on Edmore Farm in Pietermaritzburg. His father provided labour on the farm for the Hardman family in exchange for residing, growing crops and grazing livestock.
He lived in the old dilapidated, hand-built mud structures on the farm and the nearest water source, being isolated, is a shallow pool in a driedup stream, which is situated 100m from his home. Ngema resides on the settlement at the Greenbranch Farm in Wartburg in the KZN Midlands which consists of 12 households whose homes comprise mainly of five-room structures built with blocks and asbestos. Mnguni said when the Greenbranch Farm settlement occupiers attempted to create some form of sanitation by digging pit toilets, they were advised by the farm owners that they were not allowed to construct pit toilets.