Media: 1m farm workers evicted in 10 yrs

18 02 2010

2010-02-18 05:51:28 – VOC

“Farm workers earn the least in wages. It is about R1,231 before deductions. They feed the country, but can not even afford to feed themselves. Farmers should pay living wages to their workers.” That was the word from Wendy Pekeur, spokesperson for Sikhula Sonke, an organisation that represents the interests of farm labourers. She added that over the last 10 years, an alarming one million farm workers had been evicted by the farm owners.Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime this week, Pekeur was commenting on an incident where a boy was assaulted by a farmer in Robertson. “The 14 year old boy was beaten up by the farmer, his son and two other men, on the night of February 9 outside his grandmothers house on the farm. His hands were then tied behind his back, he was put on a bakkie and taken to the farmers’ house, where he was beaten further and as a result injured his leg. In an attempt to get the boy off the farm, the farmer accused him of burglary, although it was never proven by police.”

Pekeur said that if farmers were having financial problems and cannot afford to pay the workers, it was government’s responsibility to step in and take over the farms. The farm workers can then be trained to work on the farms thereby supporting socialism. “A memorandum about farm workers was handed to President Jacob Zuma in July. However, no demands have been met as yet, even though so many promises have been made,” Pekeur said.

Evictions

“Between 1994 and 2004, one million workers have been evicted. 1% went through legal procedures and 99% were illegal evictions. Sikhula Sonke has in most cases resisted the eviction of farm workers children, because according to the Constitution they have the right to family life. However, in cases where the farm workers are not aware of their rights, that is when evictions take place,” said Pekeur.

“One of the studies shows that, 70% were women and children, whose husbands had died or had resigned from employment. Even though the women still worked on the farm they were still evicted. Once the farm workers are evicted they end up living in informal settlements, on the road and fields and dwelling around, because there is no other place for them to go,” Pekeur explained.

Meanwhile, Sikhula Sonke is currently being sued by a lawyer in Somerset, claiming damages because the organisation stated that farmers were being allowed to trample over farm worker rights, since it went against the Constitution to evict the workers. The organisation is now fighting for the housing rights of the women working on farms.

“The ANC freedom charter says the land shall be shared between those who work the land. The government will then be able to meet their land reform targets of redistributing 30% land by 2014, only 4% of land has been redistributed but not to the benefit of farm workers,” Pekeur said. VOC (Aqeelah Bawa)

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