The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply angered and strongly condemns the abuse of farm workers by a farmer in Springs. The report by today’s The Star Newspaper that a farmer allegedly forced an employee to drink two litres of faeces before attempting to drown him is a septic tank is horrifying.
We are also angry to hear that the police officers at Springs Police station refused to help the victim open a case. We are calling on the relevant authorities to investigate these disturbing allegations and arrest this farmer and his son. We also want to see the police who refused to attend to the complaint of the victim held accountable.
COSATU has been lamenting that the South African farm workers is amongst the worst in the world and they are some of the most oppressed workers in the country. This story is reminder that there is still modern day slavery thriving on our farms. Not only do workers experience, extreme exploitation, they also suffer from physical and psychological abuse in the workplace. Their precarious working and living conditions can be equated to modern day slavery, a step above the grave.
We challenge organizations like Afriforum and TAU, who have only magnified and exaggerated the attacks that are directed at farmers and ignored the reprehensible level of abuse that is experienced by farm workers to speak out in condemnation of this farmer.
Farm workers have been let down badly by the system. Law enforcement agencies, government departments and our democratic institutions like the Human Rights Commission have failed to adequately investigate discrimination, labour and human rights violations faced by farm workers. The government inspectors and some police officers are colluding with the farmers against these farm workers.
Many of these workers are forced to exceed the maximum working hours permitted by law. They do not receive the required overtime pay or time off, including overtime provisions.
Most of them do not enjoy their rights to paid sick, family and annual leave. They are mostly not included under the UIF, due to the non-payment of UIF fees by the employers, and also do not enjoy full maternity leave benefits and rights.
They are dismissed arbitrary without the employers following proper disciplinary procedures as set out in our labour laws. These workers are evicted with no regard to legal due processes. They are not given insufficient time notification or given alternative housing.
After being evicted they are not allowed to visit the graves of family members and friends on other farms. Their graves are desecrated or destroyed and their live stock confiscated by farmers during labour relations disputes or evictions.
COSATU wants the laws governing labour inspectors to be strengthened and they need to be empowered to issue fines, investigate and haul exploitative employers to court. The exploitation that is taking place in the farming sector is mostly motivated by racism and the sooner the ANC government implements the policy of expropriation without compensation the better.
There is also no change that will happen if there is no tough action taken against these farmers. They should be made to pay a price for their bigotry. They should lose their properties to compensate the victims and their.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794