Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist


‘Kick out your pregnant daughter, or else’ – MPs hear nightmare tales of conditions on WC farms

Farm workers allege physical and verbal abuse, with one farmer using a tractor to block off parliament oversight committee members


Farm workers in the Western Cape have detailed to members of parliament the “unspeakable and atrocious conditions” they face on the province’s farms, including allegations of physical and verbal abuse and wrongful evictions.

A farm worker told members of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour how he was ordered to either kick out his pregnant daughter or have his electricity disconnected.

The Western Cape is the eighth province to be visited by the joint committee to assess the living and working conditions of farm workers and farm dwellers.

At the weekend, the delegation visited four farms in the Cape West Coast and Cape Winelands districts, where it also held public hearings used by farm workers to highlight their plight.

Abuse

Spokesperson Sureshinee Govender said in Welverdien farm in the Cape Winelands district, the delegation heard allegations of physical and verbal abuse of farm workers by farmers.

She said farm workers revealed that the farmer charged them R620 per month for accommodation, and if a farm worker stays with a partner they must pay an additional R210.

The delegation also heard that if children reached 18 years of age, the farm workers may have to pay an additional rent for them or they must leave the farm.

Also Read: Families to be kicked off state farm to make way for private farmer

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela said the farm owner refused to meet them when he was invited for an engagement.

At the Goedemoed Farm, the department of employment and labour confiscated expired passports and visas of 11 foreign nationals and handed them to the home affairs department for further action.

“We cannot allow this to continue at the expense of the 66% of unemployed youth in South Africa. These jobs have to be protected and reserved for our people”, Mandela said.

No Entry

At the second Goedemoed farm, the delegation was told that 23 families living on the farm had received eviction notices, with the farm owner allegedly using a tractor to block the delegation from entering the farmhouse.

The delegation managed to reach the farm workers over the fence, with Mandela saying the committee will be engaging minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Dididza, to stop the evictions. 

He also promised to engage the minister about another 20 families threatened with evictions at Proefplaas Farm, owned by the Agricultural Research Council.

In Matlosana local municipality in the North West, the committees’ first stop was the Bona Bona Game Farm, where they found that the farm was non-compliant with several pieces of legislation impacting farm labourers.

This included non-payment of the standard minimum wage and inadequate overtime pay, with the farm owner also not contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

Also Read: National Minimum Wage: Unhappiness about increase for farmworkers

 The delegation’s second stop in North West was the Hartbeesfontein farm where 52 families had been relocated upon their evictions from surrounding farms.

The farm was bought by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development but there were no homes to accommodate 52 families.

Neglected

At the third stop, the Beatrix Farm, the delegation was told the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was dragging its feet in assisting the owners of the 642 hectare Beatrix Farm acquired through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) in 2014.

Also Read: Black farmers accuse government of abandoning them

There is no activity at the farm, with families living in deplorable conditions in dilapidated mud and iron structures with no running water, electricity or sanitation.

Beneficiaries appealed to the committee to intervene and to fast track the approval of the business plan that was submitted by the provincial office to the national department.

The approval of the business plan and the funding will assist them to build houses, ablution facilities, purchase production infrastructure and be able to start growing crops and livestock. siphom@citizen.co.za

Read more on these topics

agriculture farmers Land reform