Public hearings on living and working conditions of farmworkers welcomed – EFF

Fighters say interested parties must propose interventions to fight against the abuse of farm workers and farm dwellers

EFF statement on the ongoing public hearings into the living and working conditions of farmworkers, dwellers, and labour tenants

5 July 2022

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) acknowledges the joint work of Parliament's Portfolio Committees on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Land Reform, as well as Labour and Employment, which are investigating the living and working conditions of farm-dwellers and farm workers.

This is as a result of motion tabled by the EFF in Parliament in November 2020. The original motion tabled by the EFF called for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to thoroughly investigate the living and working conditions of those whose lives are tied to farms.

The ruling party did not see the urgency of the situation, and rather asked that committees must do this investigation in the normal course of their work. It is for this reason that these committees have taken so long to start doing this critically important work.

Farmworkers and farm dwellers are some of the most vulnerable section of the labour force in this country. Many of them were born in these farms, their parents and grandparents are buried in these farms, and they have no other home other than the farms. Yet, they are getting evicted at such an alarming rate by cruel and inhumane farm owners who have no respect for the rights of these workers and dwellers to live in their homes.

Moreover, our courts have been used to rubber stamp these arbitrary decisions by the white farm owners to evict our people from the farms. It was because of this realisation that at the EFFs second National People's Assembly in 2019, the organisation called for the establishment of a permanent People's Land Court, as well as for the establishment of the office of a Land Ombudsman with powers similar to those of the Public Protector, to specifically focus on the plight of farm workers and farm dwellers.

The two committees of parliament are now conducting public hearings across the country, to investigate how our people who live and work on farms are treated. The public hearings conducted in six provinces commenced from the 29th April 2022 and will be completed on the 31st July 2022, providing an opportunity for farmworkers to give evidence of their living and working conditions.

What the committees have uncovered thus far reveals hard truths and paints a grim picture of the working and living conditions, and are characterized by frequent evictions, physical assaults of farmworkers, dwellers and labour tenants.

In addition to these revelations, farmworkers are exposed to violence, a gross violation of human rights, lack of adequate housing facilities, and lack of access to proper sanitation and clean running water.

Often, crimes and violations of human rights when reported to the police, result in no investigation or prosecution of perpetrators of these sordid crimes. The preliminary findings also reveal that, although legal protection in terms of applicable laws including mandatory national minimum wage, extended to farmworkers labour rights, generally, there are widespread non-compliance with these laws.

All these abuses are possible because the land owning farming class in the country has been left untouchable, and continues to benefit from their colonial and apartheid acquired privileges. This will continue to be the case until the State takes the land from these thugs and racists, and give it over to the farmworkers themselves.

Farmworkers have worked the land all their lives, and are capable of using the farms more productively.

The EFF calls on all interested parties to continue participating at these public hearings, to enable the legislature to have an in-depth understanding of these issues, whilst also proposing interventions to fight against the abuse of farm workers and farm dwellers.

Issued by Sinawo Thambo, National Spokesperson, EFF, 5 July 2022