Stop farmworker exploitation in N Cape, pleads MEC

The Northern Cape government says a series of reports indicate that farmworkers in the province are still being subjected to unfavourable working conditions. This is particularly rife in the Phokwane, Siyancuma and ZF Mgcawu municipalities

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Farmworkers in the Northern Cape are still subjected to unfavourable working and living conditions. This is the view of Mase Manopole, provincial MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, land reform and rural development.

Manopole has called on farmers to improve the working conditions of workers as the country commemorates the 61st anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, as well as events that unfolded in Langa in the Western Cape.

On 21 March 1960 apartheid police cracked down on marches that opposed pass laws on black South Africans. Today, on the Human Rights Day public holiday, the nation also honours the lives of the 69 protestors who were killed in Sharpeville.

Improving farmworkers’ livelihoods

Farmworker rights: Mase Manopole, Northern Cape MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, land reform and rural development. Photo: Soraya Crowie/Supplied
Mase Manopole, Northern Cape MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, land reform and rural development. Photo: Soraya Crowie/Supplied

“The right to just and favourable working conditions, good standard of living, provision of adequate health is fundamental in improving the livelihoods of farmworkers and farm dwellers. 

“Farmworkers’ and farm dweller rights are human rights too, as encapsulated in the Bill of Rights,” says Manopole.

This year’s Human Rights Day is celebrated under the theme, “The year of Charlotte Maxeke: promoting human rights in the age of Covid-19.”

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Manopole’s comments follows a series of reports recorded by the department. This apparently detail alleged gruesome stories of how badly some farmworkers are being treated in the Northern Cape.

The MEC further indicate that these violations are rife, especially in the areas such as the Phokwane, Siyancuma and ZF Mgcawu municipalities.

“It cannot be business as usual when farmworkers’ rights continue to be violated.” – MASE MANOPOLE

Dismissals and evictions of farmworkers continue unabated. Furthermore, the department’s officials still struggle to play an oversight role, to enforce compliance due to them being denied access to farms.

Report farmworker abuse

Manopole calls on everyone who has experienced the abuse or has seen and heard of the exploitation of farmworkers to report the matter to the nearest police station, the departments of employment and labour, or agriculture, environmental affairs, land reform and rural development, commercial associations and trade unions.

Furthermore, she emphasised that in terms of Section 10 of the Constitution Act of 1996, “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.”

This section of the Bill of Rights is also applicable to farmworkers and farm dwellers.

For many farmworkers RDP houses created the possibility of a more independent life. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
For many farmworkers RDP houses created the possibility of a more independent life. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Manopole’s commitments

Manopole has committed the department to continue advocating for the following rights in relation to farmworkers and farm dwellers:

  • freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively;
  • the rights of children to access safe schooling and protection;
  • the rights to a decent standard of living, health and well-being;
  • access to government services such as health, basic municipal services, social security and registration of birth;
  • access to land; and
  • security of land tenure.

Meanwhile, government has recently announced the amendments to the national minimum wage and the new minimum wages for 2021. Farmworkers should now be paid a minimum wage of R21,69 per hour.

ALSO READ: Minimum wage: ‘A R350 increase feels like R3.50’

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