Unisa hosts Black Forum SA to pay homage to 1959 ‘potato boycott’

Black Forum South Africa CEO advocate Kgagudi Morota. Picture: Supplied

Black Forum South Africa CEO advocate Kgagudi Morota. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 30, 2023


Pretoria - Some 64 years ago, black farmworkers were subjected to brutality that included being forced to work long hours in extreme weather.

Some were also apparently murdered. Others were repeatedly beaten as one of the workplace’s corrective measures.

In 1959, more 60 000 farmworkers from across the country successfully held a consumer boycott as a political and social justice response to their working conditions in Currie’s Fountain in Durban.

This national campaign was to actively encourage a boycott of the trade and consumption of potatoes in the country for four months (from June to September 1959).

Unisa will be hosting a commemoration of the campaign that was known as “potato boycott”.

The event will be organised the Black Forum South Africa, led by its CEO, advocate Kgagudi Morota, who said the commemoration would launch a new awareness campaign about the abuse and violation of human rights of farmworkers and farm communities across the country.

“Most of the black farming communities reside on white-owned farms and these white farmers restrict a lot of their fundamental rights.

“They take advantage of these communities (because) they been living on these farms for longer periods and thus they regulate how these communities conduct themselves and disregard the rule of law.

“These white farmers would even enter into the communities’ private dwellings and disregard their privacy and further subject them to inhumane treatment as slaves,” Morota said.

He said that over the years farmworkers were vulnerable to slavery and unfair labour practices because most of them came from poor families.

“Farm owners abuse their situation and pay them meagre salaries. They even go as far as killing them as a corrective measure when they come short in their work… And this results in a turmoil in the farm communities, and they retaliate to these attacks.

“Our courts then are left to balance the rights of these workers and the farm owners, and more often than not, it is difficult to reach a fair conclusion. Farm owners always contend that they possess the legitimate right to do as they please on their farms.”

A potato boycott commemoration under the theme, “Reflection on farm killings and farm working conditions in contemporary South Africa”, will be led by ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula next Thursday.

“We are going to develop programmes with Unisa, which include mediation,” Morota said.

Pretoria News