Farmworkers body slams road safety call by Didiza
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Cape Town - The Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation has slammed the call by Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza, for the agriculture bodies to engage and come up with resolutions on how the sector can prioritise safe transportation for farmworkers.
Didiza who released a statement yesterday made an invitation to all role-players, including NGOs, labour unions, farmers, farmworkers and the government to urgently put their heads together and arrive at a sustainable solution.
She said: “The accident that took place on Wednesday whereby 80 farmworkers were injured while travelling at the back of a truck, follows yet another tragic accident involving farmworkers on where about 40 farmworkers who were being transported on a four-ton truck from Meerlust farm in De Doorns to Worcester via the N1 where injured and one woman was killed.”
“We like the sector to have an urgent and honest discussion on how to improve the livelihoods and safety of all farmworkers. Farmworkers are an integral part of a successful agricultural sector and therefore their safety and better working conditions should be prioritised,” said Didiza.
However for the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation, the invitation has come a little too late.
Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation executive director Billy Claasen said while the organisation welcomed the call and invitation, the situation called for more than just words.
“The safe transportation of farmworkers, particularly within the context of Covid-19, remains a painful challenge in rural Western Cape and the agricultural sector. Hardly a month goes by without a fatal accident that happens, killing, injuring and maiming farmworkers. Immediate, urgent and drastic intervention is required, not more pretty words on paper.”
“The government is capable of more. Yes, dialogue is critical to find the solutions required. However, now is also the time for radical action and change if they truly value the lives of farmworkers.”
“To start, we propose that farmers and farmer organisations use the Social Transformation levies they receive annually to subsidise safe and Covid-19 compliant transportation for their workforce. Companies could be hired for such transportation, “ said Claasen.