Sindane family to relocate following Exxaro judgement

The Sindane family will have to relocate following a court judgement in favour of Exxaro, a mining group that has operations in the province.

The mining conglomerate was in a legal battle to evict the Sindane family, who have resided on the land for 60 years.

Exxaro obtained a mining right in 2013 and identified the Sindane family. 31 other families, were resettled due to the potential health and safety risks posed by blasting and mining activities. The company constructed Phumulani Agri-Village as an alternative settlement for the affected families.

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In 2019, most of the families agreed to relocate to Phumulani Agri-Village. However, the Sindane family resisted. They cited a pending land claim application under the Labour Tenants Act. It grants labour tenants the right to claim land in exchange for their labour. The case has shed light on the challenges faced by labour tenant applicants whose claims are caught up in bureaucratic processes and overshadowed by events such as the granting of mining rights.

Judge Jane Cowen acknowledged the potential impact of delays in realising the promise of land justice as enshrined in the constitution. This, in particularly, the labour tenants whose land tenure was historically insecure due to discriminatory laws and practices.

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Despite the family’s claims of an unresolved land claim application, the court deemed the resettlement agreement signed by the late Frans Sindane to be valid.

The court ordered the Sindane family to vacate the property by the end of January 2024. However, the judgment specified that this order does not prejudice any rights the family may have as labour tenants or their pursuit of those rights.

Judgement:

“This feature of the case brings into focus the potential impact of delays in realising the constitution’s promise of land justice. In this case, to persons who may enjoy the rights of labour tenants. Their land tenure was rendered insecure as a result of racially discriminatory laws and practices over decades,” reads Judge Jane Cowen’s judgement.

“I have reached this conclusion mindful that the Sindane family has resided in their homestead for decades and consider it their home. I have mentioned above the impact of delays in finalising labour tenancy applications. It is mindful of me that these delays are not the fault of the Sindane family, and they are rightly aggrieved.”

“Nothing in this order prejudices the rights of any member of the Sindane family to pursue any rights they may enjoy as a result of their status as labour tenants or the application lodged by the late Mr Frans Sindane in terms of section 16 of the Labour Tenants Act.”

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