“Freedom Month is very important and it is the period that requires us to deal decisively with the violation of human rights of farm workers across the province. This government is the only hope for millions of people especially the vulnerable members of society and we will never abandon them. There are farm workers whose livestock have been killed and at times confiscated by famers.”
KwaZulu-Natal Acting Premier Sihle Zikalala and Leader of Government Business was speaking today during Farm Workers Imbizo in Ndwedwe Local Municipality, convened by the Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant. Zikalala was accompanied by the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development Themba Mthembu, district and local mayors and other officials representing various government departments.
Zikalala Remarked: “We have been inundated with complaints from the farm workers about gross human rights violations. There are complaints of illegal deduction from their salaries, cases of assaults with one farmer burning to death one farmworker. This farmer offered to provide education for the children of the deceased as a way of compensation but he has refused to do that. As government we are taking up this matter. We will never fold our arms when people are subjected to such inhumane treatment at the hands of the farmers.”
“We want to commend Minister Mildred Oliphant for acting swiftly to deal with rampant violation of the laws of the country in various farms. We are shocked by the report presented to us following an unannounced visits led by the minister on Friday. The labour inspectors found that out of 29 farms visited, only 6 farms complied with the laws of the country.”
“There is non-compliance with conditions of employment, minimum wages including payment towards the Unemployed Insurance Fund. Sugarcane cutters are exposed to dangerous working conditions because of non-compliance with safety measures. The minister further informed us that they found 21 illegal immigrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Lesotho working in one farm. Other 43 illegal immigrants worked on other farms.”
“The minister has outlined a series of interventions including imposing hefty fines on farmers and referring some of the cases to the Commission for Conciliation and Arbitration, Labour Court and the Compensation Fund. She has also undertaken to deploy Agriculture Skills Education and Training Authority and other SETAS to ensure the skills development of the farm workers,” Zikalala concluded.
Critically, a group of lawyers organized by the Lebo M Foundation provided free legal services to farm workers and were shocked by the extent of the lack of access to justice. Top lawyers have been assigned to handle some of the sensitive cases with Lebo M himself, the producer and composer of the Lion King, promising to get the top brains in the legal fraternity to accelerate access to justice for the farm workers.
Importantly, during Human Rights Day Premier Willies Mchunu and his executive council visited farm workers to assess their living conditions and met with farmers on the other hand. He announced the determination of the provincial government to improve living conditions of farm workers and their families.
He pointed on that day: “We will continue with our programme of creating Agri Villages in order to ensure that farm workers have access to basic services such as electricity, water, houses, schools and clinics. We believe that Agri Villages will bring about stability in the farming community and ensure that there is certainty.”
“Our view as government is that Agri villages will provide workers with security of tenure and the ability to own their own houses. Critically, we want the farming community to play a major role in the entire value chain of agriculture sector including the programme of rural development.”
“Rural development is aimed at ensuring food security for all rural and peri-urban households. It is about creating a vibrant rural economy and sustainable lives for people in the rural areas by providing them with access to socio-economic development opportunities.”
Issued by Office of the Premier
Spokesperson for the Premier
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Spokesperson for the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
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