The LRC’s land lawyers work in far-flung rural areas on matters that lawyers in private practice generally do not engage with and for which State or other funding is inaccessible. The LRC has consistently prioritised work in these areas and has thus acquired extensive experience; an acknowledged track record of skill and expertise; and widespread trust amidst the poorest and most marginalised communities in South Africa.
LRC land reform work draws from experience gained in resisting forced removals since 1978 and, since 1994, from prosecuting land claims and assisting client communities to secure land-based livelihoods in terms of post-apartheid land reform policies.
As one of only a few public interest litigation firms in South Africa, the LRC supports particular communities on a case-by-case basis. Where possible, it works together with others such as the litigation office of the South African Human Rights Commission, the Women’s Law Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Law Centres of the state-funded Legal Aid Board, and the community law centres associated with the law schools of some universities.
As a rule, LRC lawyers do not represent communities in development initiatives without working in multi-disciplinary teams. The LRC collaborates in its caseand advocacy work with institutions such as the University of the Western Cape’s Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, organisation the Commission for Gender Equality, South African Council of Churches, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and a range of non-profit organisations including the Surplus People’s Project, FARM-Africa, The Rural Action Committee Mpumalanga, Southern Cape Land Committee and the Black Sash.
LRC prepares submissions on necessary statutory reform, comments on policy papers and draft legislation, and uses all avenues for participation in the legislative processes of national, provincial and local government.
Our collaboration with non-governmental and government organisations includes sharing progress reports and information; undertaking joint planning where work areas overlap to avoid duplication of effort and increase efficiency; advocating for the release of land and the appropriate securing of tenure for individual land reform beneficiaries more effectively; and settling a uniform approach to capturing baseline data for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of commonage and other land reform projects and to undertake such monitoring.
The strategy in reducing the vulnerability of the rural poor is to:
Litigate on behalf of poor and dispossessed individuals and communities to protect and promote their constitutional rights
The LRC’s land work has a strong focus on law and policy reform and active collaboration with other stakeholders. However the main thrust is within the litigation casework which falls within the following (often overlapping) key impact categories:
LRC’s work ranges from large land claims involving the return of land to communities for agricultural use and other economic activities (including mining), securing just and equitable compensation in instances where land cannot be returned, and the development of post-restitution plans to the protection of farm workers and tenants against unlawful evictions.