Three weeks after the Western Cape government pleaded with farmers to stop transporting their labourers on the backs of trucks, the province was hit by another deadly accident in which 80 farmworkers were injured.
The crash occurred early this morning on the R44 between Paarl and Wellington, according to SA Trucker. Twelve ambulances and two rescue vehicles were dispatched after the workers were flung from the back of a truck.
Jandré Bakker, who heads up communication at the Western Cape department of transport and public works, says two people were seriously injured while 27 sustained moderate injuries and a further 51 were treated for minor injuries.
The farmerworkers’ employer has not yet been named. Food For Mzansi has, however, learnt that the labourers were possibly transported from the Kraaifontein area. Among the injured count many foreign nationals.
Bakker says while the exact details of the crash is still unclear, a preliminary report indicates that the truck’s driver lost control of the vehicle.
While the previous farmworker crash (on 5 January 2021) occurred during a rainstorm, today’s accident was amid sunny conditions with temperatures in Paarl peaking at 29 degrees Celsius.
In an earlier interview, the Western Cape minister of agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer condemned the transportation of workers on trucks. He told Food For Mzansi, “Transporting farmworkers on the back of trucks is not on, and I cannot condone it or support it. It is not in line with the principles of dignity.”
Human dignity for farmworkers
Anyone who still transports agricultural workers on the back of trucks will be dealt with, warned Meyer.
“The transportation protocols during this (Covid-19) period have been amended. People need to be transported safely with a minimum number of workers.
“In the Western Cape we have adopted the principle of human dignity and we believe there must be severe consequences for anyone not abiding by these protocols.”
Meyer also earlier indicated that farmworkers were currently particularly vulnerable as agriculture is considered an essential service during the pandemic.
“I strongly condemn any act of transporting the workers beyond the truck’s capacity. It must stop, and it must stop immediately.”
From a dignity perspective beyond Covid-19, he pleaded with farmers to rethink the transportation of their workers.
“I want to thank those farmers who are using buses and more decent and humane types of vehicles to transport farmworkers. But transporting farmworkers on trucks is no longer on,” he said.