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01 Feb 2007 17:24
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Thursday welcomed Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana’s pledge to tackle the abuse of farm workers.
“We fully share the minister’s concern about the evictions and murders on farms and the inhumane treatment and abuse of farm workers,” said Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven.
Stories appeared daily highlighting the “desperate” plight of thousands of farm workers.
In Limpopo, for instance, a farmer refused to pay his workers over Christmas after they went on strike demanding time off over weekends.
Another Limpopo farmer was fined R10Â 000 or five years in jail for shooting dead 11-year-old Sello Pete after mistaking him for a dog.
“For [farm workers’ families] the country’s progressive Constitution and labour laws mean nothing.
“Ruthless, apartheid-era employers treat them a little better than slaves, exploiting their labour for poverty wages and then throwing them out of their homes when they make demands for basic rights and a living wage,” said Craven.
It was these difficult living conditions which led to the killing of farmers such as Ken Eva, who was bludgeoned to death at a meeting with the community of Esibhonsweni in Melmoth over land ownership.
“We unreservedly condemn the killing of farmers, but these acts have to be put into context of the desperate conditions which breed crime.
“One of the underlying causes is the brutal treatment of farm workers.
“Another is the slow pace of land redistribution and the increase in the number of evictions,” said Craven.
Cosatu also condemned the actions of the agricultural unions, Transvaal Agricultural Union and AgriSA, which have condemned Xingwana’s comments and walked out of a meeting with her last week.
“These farmers have failed to comply with the sectoral determination to pay basic minimum wages to farm workers.
“They continue to fail to provide humane living places for workers.
“This unacceptable behaviour has gone too far for too long and these thankless farmers still have the audacity to want to protect this horrible and inhumane behaviour and conduct against the people working and staying on farms,” said Craven.
Their conduct showed that most white farmers were willing to do anything to frustrate and sabotage any attempt to transform land and agriculture in line with the objectives set by government.
“If need be, the government should confiscate land so that we can meet our target of transferring land to the poor and the landless,” said Craven.—Sapa
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