Farmer accused of forcing workers to hand over their UIF TERS payments to him
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Cape Town - The Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation says farmworkers continue to face adversity daily and still remain a vulnerable group in South African.
The organisation is preparing to lay criminal charges of fraud against a farmer today for allegedly robbing his workers of their Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme UIF (TERS) benefits.
Director Billy Claasen said the farmer, outside Graafwater, was allegedly paid TERS as a lump sum which he then paid into the workers’ accounts. However, Claasen said, the farmer then took the workers to the bank to withdraw the money and made them pay it to him.
He said this had been ongoing from April up until last week.
Claasen said poverty, lack of decent housing and quality education, lack of effective delivery of services and ineffective access to medical services were also some of the challenges that farmworkers were facing daily.
“Farmworkers remain vulnerable. There are still those farmers who abuse farmworkers on farms. We have seen cases go to court where farmworkers have been abused and killed and sometimes these cases disappeared,” he said.
“Access to their place of residence is also a big challenge. Protest action must ensure unity in action and must not be seen to be in favour of one group only. The life of a farmer is no different in value to the life of a farmworker,” he said.
He said crime affected everyone and called for the fair investigation and prioritisation of the case.
“Whether a farmer or farmworker complains, whether it is a youngster on the Cape Flats or a person in Constantia, all complaints must receive equal attention and treatment,” he said.
Anele Mehlo from the Western Cape Advice Office said the pandemic had laid bare the inhumane conditions which some of the farmworkers were subjected to.
“In Citrusdal and Ceres during the hard lockdown, we had farmworkers that were running up and down looking for jobs and places to stay after they were evicted from the farms they were working for,” he said.
The farmer had not responded by the time of publication.