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Farmworkers want end to evictions, use of harmful pesticides

Members and supporters of the Women on Farms Project march to Parliament, demanding an end to farmworker abuses. Picture: Supplied

Members and supporters of the Women on Farms Project march to Parliament, demanding an end to farmworker abuses. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 10, 2023


Cape Town - Calling for a moratorium on evictions and the phasing out of harmful pesticides, the Women on Farms Project (WFP) has requested that Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza amend legislation that will protect farmworkers against human rights abuses.

WFP recently held its annual National Farm Worker Platform conference, which concluded with a demonstration at Parliament for the handover of a memorandum of demands for Didiza on Tuesday.

They listed four demands to which they expect Didiza to respond by December 8.

The Stellenbosch-based NGO also demanded a meeting with the minister by March 31 to discuss the issues they raised.

WFP said despite progressive labour and tenure legislation, introduced in 1994, farmworkers remained poor, marginalised and landless.

They want Didiza to, among others, amend current legislation to provide for a moratorium on farmworker evictions; implement legislation for equitable redistribution of land, prioritising women; and the phasing out of highly hazardous pesticides.

“South Africa’s commercial, industrial and agricultural sector is largely export-driven, capital-intensive, water-intensive and exploits the cheap labour of farmworkers.

“Furthermore, its use of highly hazardous pesticides contributes to climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and water insecurity,” WFP said.

The department said the memorandum was submitted to Parliament and they will respond to questions once it has been handed to Didiza.

President of the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry (Bawsi), Nosey Pieterse, said it was crucial that Didiza was involved in the issues raised by the WFP, as any minister had the power to bring change.

Pieterse said as it stood, legislation such as the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (Esta), did much to still protect the rights of employers over that of workers.

Esta is legislation that provides for measures, with state assistance, to facilitate long-term security of land tenure for farmworkers.

“Esta is a misnomer because it doesn’t secure tenure at all.

“It is just a tool to enable farm owners to evict in a more sophisticated manner. In the end they still get evicted.

“Yes there are channels like Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council). But the minister must get involved,” he said.

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