The Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation demanded that government embark on an information campaign on farms about the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that most farmers don't adhere to health protocols. Photo: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
The Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation demanded that government embark on an information campaign on farms about the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that most farmers don't adhere to health protocols. Photo: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Farmworkers search for more Covid-19 information

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Jan 20, 2021

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Cape Town – The Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation (RFDO) demanded that the government embark on an information campaign on farms about the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that most farmers don't adhere to health protocols.

The organisation said thousands of farmworkers had faced exploitation long before the pandemic, and it was being exacerbated as a result of the lockdown restrictions, with farmers demanding more from workers.

RFDO director Billy Classen said the outbreak of Covid-19 in rural areas had immensely impacted on struggling farmworkers.

“Their working and living conditions are atrocious at times. Hardly a month goes by without a report of a serious accident of farmworkers sitting on the back of a truck who have been seriously injured or killed in an accident. The eviction of many workers from farms continues unabated, and many are at risk of being evicted from farms if they dare to speak up.”

“Covid-9 also has a huge impact on the social and spiritual life of some farmworkers as they need to rely on social media for church services, and some don't have the luxury of Facebook or WhatsApp on farms. They don't have the privilege of being able to buy data.

“The challenge of being far from health-care facilities and no testing available to them has placed an extra burden, anxiety and stress upon them,” he said.

ANC spokesperson for agriculture Pat Marran said government should go on a fact-finding mission, and so should trade unions who often negotiate on behalf of workers at a Nedlac level.

“This mission should not only deal with Covid-19 and the lockdown regulations or protocols but should also speak about everything, including slave wages, rent for housing, paid electricity as well as paying rent for kids the moment they turn 18.

“The latter issues farmer organisations claim are free for workers and must be taken into consideration when negotiating for a minimum wage.”

Marran said farmworkers had been failed from all sides, including government and that not enough has been done to educate them on their rights.

“Farmworkers and a fact-finding need more protection from both government and labour organisations and a fact-finding mission might be the beginning of better days,” said Marran.

Cape Argus

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