16 August 2000

South Africa: Naked Women First to Put Names On Land List

Schoemansdal — The women who marched naked in protest against a chief who allowed cattle to graze in their mealie fields last year, were the first of 200 subsistence farmers to put their names on a list on Wednesday and apply to government for land.

The women gave their names to a non-governmental organisation, The Rural Action Committee (Trac), which will submit the list to the Mpumalanga departments of housing and agriculture and the national department of land affairs.

The 28 women are part of a group of about 200 people in Schoemansdal south of Malelane who lost land when the local chief allowed two cattle farmers to use the villagers' mealie fields as grazing land.

The villagers thought they owned the small plots of land after each of them paid a headman R50 nine years ago for the land.

One crop grower, Solomon Mabuza, said not all the subsistence farmers' names were on the list yet and some didn't have their identity and stand numbers on Wednesday, but that these would be filled in at another meeting with Trac next Wednesday.

The women marched naked in November last year and were jailed for a week on charges of public indecency and staging a protest without permission, before being released on bail of R500 each, which the community raised.

The case was later thrown out of court and both the government and Trac promised to help them.

But the women were becoming impatient, because a year later, little had happened and they need to plant seeds in October if they are to harvest anything next year.

"Trac has now helped us compile the list and told us to look for land suitable for growing our mealies," said Mabuza.

He said the group was considering suing the two cattle farmers for damages for destroying the mealie fields last year.

Until their new land is approved, the group will be allowed to plant their crops in their old fields because the land falls in a tribal trust, which is land that the chief is holding in trust for the State.

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