Riebeek-Kasteel farm workers travelling in a truck to work. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)
Riebeek-Kasteel farm workers travelling in a truck to work. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Farm workers are being forced to find their own transport to work, legislature hears

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published May 19, 2021

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Cape Town - Fed up with taking the blame for traffic accidents involving farm workers, some farmers in the province have resorted to telling workers to organise their own informal transport to get them to and from their jobs at farms.

The legislature’s standing committee on agriculture was told by committee member Peter Marais (FF+) that he had received letters from farm workers, which said that some farmers were telling workers that they would no longer provide transport.

The committee was meeting to hear input from interested parties and labour organisations, on the question of promoting the safe and dignified transportation of farm workers.

Marais said: “While we are grappling with this issue in meetings, the farm workers are in dire straits.

“I’ve had a complaint from one farm worker, where the farmer has now said: You must now provide your own transport and see how you get to the farm.

“I’ve got another letter here saying that farmworkers must club together and pay R1 000 per week for their own transport to the farms. We’ve got to pick up the pace and find solutions because the farm workers are suffering,” said Marais.

Committee chairperson Andricus van der Westhuizen (DA) said a situation – in which farmers decide that their core business is farming and don’t care about the transport of their workers – was of particular concern, as there was a danger that any additional costs may be devolved to labourers.

“We really want to find a solution that will avoid a situation where workers eventually have to pay to improve their safety, as I’m not always sure if the solution they will find is a safer one.

“Walking in the dark to farms, making use of informal transport, etc, may prove to be even more dangerous,” said Van der Westhuisen.

The committee was addressed by members of organised labour, who came up with proposals that could help sort out the issue.

Cosatu provincial secretary Malvern De Bruyn said there was a need for policy or legislation, similar to was introduced for school transport, that prohibits the transporting of farm workers on trucks and bakkies.

Sactwu regional organiser Gerrit Willemse suggested a government travel subsidy for farm workers, in cases where farmers could not afford to buy or hire new transport for workers.

The provincial Agriculture Department’s deputy director general Darryl Jacobs said the issue of the safe and dignified transport of farm workers would feature as an agenda point at the rural safety summit, organised by the department, at the end of June.

From a compilation of online news reports going back to 2007, committee member Pat Marran (ANC) said there have been 34 reported deaths in the province, involving farm worker transport.

In January this year, a truck crashed in the Western Cape, while transporting about 80 farmworkers, on the R44 near the Durbanville offramp.

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Cape Argus

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