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Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act, 1996 (South Africa)

Category: Legislation
Binomial Name: Government of the Republic of South Africa
Date: 22 March 1996
Sub Category:Legislation
State/Country:Republic of South Africa
Summary Information:
The Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 1996 ('the Act') commenced on 22 March 1996, as a part of the South African government's legislative effort to overcome the racially-skewed land ownership patterns that resulted from apartheid.

A 'labour tenant' is a person who is residing (or has a right to reside) on a farm, or has a right to use cropping or grazing land on a farm in return for labour, or is a child or grandchild of such a person. This definition does not include a farm worker (s 1).

The Act seeks to strengthen the property rights of labour tenants over farm land in which they have historically had use rights, including by providing them with security of tenure and their acquisition of rights in land. The right to legally secure tenure, where the land's insecurity of tenure is 'as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices' has constitutional protection (s 25 (6) South African Constitution).
Detailed Information:
The preamble to the Act states that it is being enacted to counteract 'the present institution of labour tenancy in South Africa [which] is the result of racially discriminatory laws and practices'. Matters brought pursuant to the Act are first heard in the Land Claims Court.

Background to Act

According to Mostert, the institution of labour tenancy came about as a result of the early twentieth century legislative measures to restrict non-white ownership, tenancy or sharecropping rights in land. The labour tenancy system developed out of these measures. It came under attack with the onset of 'grand apartheid', aspects of which sought to ensure that the only black South Africans living in so-called 'white' areas were 'migrant' workers, who officially resided elsewhere. This process saw one million non-whites evicted from their labour tenancies between 1966 and 1980 (Mostert, 481-482).


The Act provides that labour tenant may only be evicted in certain circumstances including if they are in continuing breach of their labour contract, and only by an order of the court. This is not satisfied if the labour tenant is over 60 years of age or is unable to work because of disability. In addition, the Act states that the where the court orders an eviction, the owner must pay 'just and equitable' compensation to the evictee.

Acquisition of rights in land

Under the Act, a labour tenant or their family may apply to receive an award of the land which they occupied or used for a period of five years, and from which they were unfairly removed. Where the court grants ownership rights to labour tenants, compensation must be paid to the farm owner.

Related Entries

  • Land Claims Court
  • Government of the Republic of South Africa
  • Department of Land Affairs (South Africa)
  • Legislation
  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996
  • Policy/Strategy
  • Apartheid
  • South African Land Reform Programme

  • Glossary


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