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The Story of a Centenarian’s Struggle for Access to Basic Services

Zabalaza Mshengu was 104 years old when he was laid to rest. His name, “Zabalaza”, means ‘stand firm or plant oneself firmly on the ground or refuse to give way’ in isiZulu. He embodied the name completely: relentless in his struggle for basic services for farm occupiers and labour tenants. Unfortunately he died before seeing the fruits of his labour. But it was not in vain and his efforts have restored the dignity of thousands of forgotten citizens across South Africa. On 29 July 2019 the Pietermaritzburg High Court handed down a landmark judgment in which it confirmed that farm dwellers and labour tenants residing on farms, has a constitutional right to basic services which have to be provided to them by the municipality. Farm occupiers and labour tenants in remote parts of the country endure appalling living conditions due to limited, and at times no access to the basic resources necessary for human survival, self-actualisation, or dignity. They struggle to access water, have unsanitary ablution facilities and their refuse is not collected by municipalities. They often have inadequate housing, and a lack of access to medical services, education, and electricity. Tired of being treated as second-class citizens, a group of labour tenants and farm occupiers instructed the LRC to launch an application on behalf of all farm dwellers.