Farm workers ignored

Cosatu in the North West has expressed outrage that the death of Eugene Terre’Blanche has received so much attention from the national government and all political parties while the ill treatment of farm workers has largely been ignored.

The trade union federation this week demanded that the provincial police commissioner release all statistics of assaults and killings of farm workers reported to the authorities.

Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Solly Phetoe, said the majority of farmers who are accused of assaulting farm workers are not arrested unless Cosatu intervenes and when they do get arrested, they are released on bail and never actually get prosecuted.

Phetoe said he wrote to President Jacob Zuma in September last year to raise these concerns but has not received a response. He said even alliance partners such as the ANC and Sanco were not assisting farm workers.

“The department of justice is called also to release cases that are in court and tell the public why there is no prosecution on almost all cases that involved white farmers, and why some of the cases are dragging for more than two years in court without prosecution or trial,” Phetoe said.

This week a farmer in Lichtenburg, not far from Ventersdorp, allegedly assaulted seven farm workers on the day that Terre’Blanche’s alleged killers appeared in court.

Cosatu claims that he was only arrested after it contacted the provincial police commissioner. The farmer was released on R7 000 bail and had to surrender his firearm and passport.

But provincial police commissioner Lesetja Beetha said the farmer had already been arrested by the time Cosatu called him.
“We act on all the cases that are reported to us. They must not generalise. If there are specific cases that they want to raise, they can come to us. I can’t answer for the justice department if people are released on bail.”

Too afraid
The ANC this week instructed its local leaders not to comment but a community leader in Ventersdorp said the party often could not intervene in time because farm workers were too afraid to come forward until it was too late.

Cosatu’s Phetoe said: “People get mauled by lions and workers are evicted all the time. In fact we just won a case where the farmer had evicted the workers last year after they went to vote during the general elections.

“The workers are now back on the farm. But no one from the national leadership or government has spoken out. Where were the politicians and our own government? But now that ET is dead, they are all jumping. They are now saying he was on the verge of reconciling, but with whom?”

Phetoe said he has been repeatedly threatened by the farmers who accuse him and Julius Malema of stoking racism.

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal. Read more from Rapule Tabane

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