PRESS RELEASE: Woman’s right to independent security of tenure recognised: Jan Klaase and Elsie Klaase v Jozia Johannes van der Merwe

On 14 July 2014, the South African Constitutional Court released its judgement in the matter of Jan Klaase and Elsie Klaase v Jozia Johannes van der Merwe (N.O. of the Noordhoek Trust) and Jozia Johannes van der Merwe.

This case concerns an appeal against two judgments and orders by Cape Town’s Land Claims Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal that engages with the constitutional matter regarding the interpretation of an occupier and the definition of consent under the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA), especially as it pertains to the spouses of the farm workers.

In this case, the respondents brought an eviction application against one of the applicants, which required that everyone occupying “under him” also had to vacate the premises. This led to the displacement of his wife and children, in addition to himself. The wife of the farm worker, the second applicant, contended the eviction under the argument that she was an ESTA occupier in her own right, due to her employment status and residence on the farm with the owner’s consent. Therefore, her husband and children should be entitled to live with her under her right to family life.

The judgement of the Constitutional Court held that

The Women’s Legal Centre welcomes the judgement where the Constitutional Court held that the Land Claims Court’s finding that Mrs Klaase occupation of the premises “under her husband” subordinates her rights to those of Mr Klaase and that it demeaned Mrs Klaase’s rights of equality and human dignity to describe her occupation in those terms.

The ground breaking ruling provides legal certainty for independent security of a woman’s right to tenure. The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) represented the Women on Farms Project (WFP) who was admitted as a friend of the court.

Read the full press release here

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