Exploitation of farm workers won’t be tolerated – MEC

The MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Land Reform and Rural Development in the Nothern Cape, Mase Manopole, has called on the improved working condition of farmworkers in the Province’s farms.

With the commemoration of the Human Right Day on Sunday March 21, MEC Manopole indicated that some of the farmworkers are still subjected to unfavourable working and living conditions.

“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”.

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”

The MEC’s comments come after a series of reports which have been recorded by the Department, detailing alleged gruesome stories of how badly farmworkers are treated by their employers. MEC further indicated that these violations are rife, especially in the areas such as Phokwane, Siyancuma and ZF Mgcawu municipalities.

Manopole said it cannot be business as usual when farm workers’ rights continue to be violated.

She said 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.

The MEC called 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 Department of Employment and Labour, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Land Reform and Rural Development, Commercial Associations and Trade Unions.

Manopole 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.

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,

•    Security of land tenure

Meanwhile, the Minister of the Department Employment and Labour, has recently announced the amendments to the national minimum wage and the new minimum wages for 2021.  Farmworkers will be paid a minimum wage of R21,69 per hour.

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