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Cape Town - Western Cape farmworkers received food and other aid after calls made by Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, her office said on Wednesday.
Farmworkers in the province were without food as they had not been paid due to the strike, Joemat-Pettersson’s spokeswoman Palesa Mokomele said.
“There has been an awakening by retailers, including Tiger Brands, Food Bank SA and Hortgro to bring hope to the thousands of farmworkers,” Mokomele said.
“We sourced R10 million from the Food Relief Fund. We have gone this route because farmworkers… face numerous challenges, including poverty and a lack of basic services. South Africa faces household food insecurity, and farmworkers have, over the past couple of weeks, elevated their plight. Farmworkers went without their wages for the duration of the protests and many of them are facing a bleak Christmas.”
Table grape harvesters started protesting in De Doorns at the start of November, asking for R150 a day in wages and improved living conditions. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day. The protests spread to 15 other towns, leading to violence and two deaths, before the strike ended on December 4.
The bulk of the aid will be handed out in De Doorns.
“This is great news. There was a time when hunger and starvation was of huge concern in De Doorns, as shops were looted and workers were forfeiting their wages due to strike action,” said activist Braam Hanekom, who has been involved with assisting striking farmworkers in De Doorns since September.
“The workers of De Doorns made large sacrifices to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers in the Western Cape and throughout South Africa. I am very happy and relieved that they are receiving some food so close to the festive season.”
Farmworker Monwabisi Kondile said the community welcomed the aid: “But we are still struggling. We cannot live off aid, we need our living wage. The workers and the farmers are still trying to negotiate, but the process is taking long and many of the people are frustrated.”
The department made money available for basic food and the services of a logistics company to manage the delivery of food and aid.
Families receiving donations would be allocated a coupon with an identification number, which allowed the logistics company to keep track of who had received which aid package.
“Each package includes basic foodstuffs like maize meal, rice, flour, sugar, cooking oil, and other goods,” said Mokomele.
The department called on the public to extend themselves this Christmas by donating food, aid and back-to-school goods, such as books and stationery. Goods can be dropped off at the Food Bank SA warehouse in Epping, Cape Town, between 8.30am and 3.30pm Monday to Friday.