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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU condemns farm evictions

12 - 20 - 06

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is appalled and disgusted at the SABC report that nearly 100 farm workers near Baltimore in Limpopo will spend their Christmas without wages and with no water. The SABC alleges that their employer cut their water supply after they went on strike demanding permission to be given time off during weekends so they can attend to family issues and funerals.

One of the workers, Gadibongwe Nkutwe, who has worked at this farm for 17 years, told a reporter that he does not have money to get back home to Botswana. "The farmer chased us away, throwing our belongings away and then some were arrested for fetching fir ewood. We are suffering, we do not have water, food and money".

If this is true, the employer is clearly committing a criminal offence by stealing the workers' belongings and denying them the right to have clean water and access to firewood, as well as breaching labour laws.

COSATU sincerely hopes that the remark attributed to Joe Maila, the provincial spokesperson of the Department of Labour, that he "is on leave and the matter is too complex for him", is not true. We demand that the Department immediately intervene to stop t his illegal and immoral action by the farmer.

We also call upon the SAPS to arrest employers who have broken the law, and on the Provincial Government of Limpopo to make sure that the families are looked after at this special time of year.

This story illustrates dramatically the desperate plight of thousands of South African farm workers and their families. For them the country's progressive constitution and labour laws mean nothing. Ruthless, apartheid-era employers treat them little better than slaves, exploiting their labour for poverty wages and then throwing them out of their homes when they make demands for basic rights and a living wage.

COSATU and its affiliate the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) are committed to making the organisation of farm workers a top priority. We will be campaigning even harder in 2007 to end the low pay, violent abuse and insecurity that they face, so that t hey can enjoy their legal rights and be treated with respect as part of the new South Africa.

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