The recent High Court judgment declaring that three municipalities in Pietermaritzburg must provide water, sanitation and waste collection on farms has been hailed as a victory for farm dwellers across the country.

A Mail & Guardian Online report quotes senior attorney Thabiso Mbhense, of the Legal Resources Centre, who said: ‘The judgment will have implications for the broader SA, in that it will be used as a precedent by the farm dwellers to demand municipalities in their areas provide them with basic services.’

Labour tenants and farm dwellers brought an application against various local and district municipalities in and around Pietermaritzburg, to provide them with sufficient water, basic sanitation and collection of refuse on farms.

Farm tenants relied on section 27 of the Constitution, which states that they have the right to water, sanitation, refuse collection and a clean environment.

The municipalities have an obligation to provide these essential services.

The municipalities argued that farms were the private property of farm owners and, as such, the responsibility of providing water and sanitation fell to them.

Judge Bhekisisa Jerome Mnguni dismissed this, saying: ‘As state, the first respondent is the water services authority and, as such, the obligation to provide water and sanitation for farm occupiers and labour tenants rests on it, not on the landowners.’ Mbhense said the judgment had ‘restored the dignity of farm dwellers’.

Full report on the Mail & Guardian Online site