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Zimbabweans lost their jobs after asking R10 for 5 hours overtime: Stranded and abused away from home

by Tapiwa Diamond Chadya
02 Jan 2016 at 11:13hrs | Views
The total emasculation of the migrant farm worker's labour, social and economic power has been complemented into a plan stratagem which inevitably beyond any reasonable doubt, trims down the farm workers' economic status to the level of Stone Age scavengers. Consequently, the farm labourers are auto-pilot vacant for manipulation, exploitation and abuse by brutal white commercial farmers and their cronies.

What started as a normal routine negotiation for overtime ended up spelling disaster for more than 300 hundred Zimbabweans who were employed at Johannesburg Farm in Lephalale which is found in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. They stopped working at or about the 14th of September 2015 when they were brutally assaulted by the farm management. They have thus not received any remuneration or food ever since.

The campaign to assist the migrants is headed by the House of Hope - iThemba, African Diaspora Workers Network (ADWN) and The Gift of the Givers. The Zimbabwean Consulate team also joined on the ground. The Gift of the Givers has donated food parcels and blankets and sanitary needs to the children and women.

The farm housed more than 300 hundred Zimbabweans and the majority of them are undocumented. The farm owner used to apply and renew permits for the migrants, but has of late been negligent or neglected to renew them.

The general farm workers used to work for a paltry R60 and supervisors would get R80 per day for a 12 hour shift. The owner of the farm increased the working hours to 11pm from the normal 5pm knock off time on a six day week. They were enslaved into a 17 hour working shift without prior consultation and consent. This took a toll on the employees as they were never paid for overtime. They consulted the management for clarity with regards to the overtime payment and they asked for a mere R10 as payment for the five hours overtime.

This did not sit well with the employer who then gave them an ultimatum of five minutes to either go back to work or be summarily dismissed. It is shocking that the management was enraged by such a pathetic demand and took it into their hands to dismiss them. The legal minimum rate for farm workers is R120.32 per day. The owner fired shots in the air immediately and together with his security back up fired rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and had dogs set on them. In this flee and fear encounter, the farm workers were brutally assaulted and the emergency services had their hands full on the day. The assaulted people included those in the vulnerable group who are pregnant women, the old and young children.

A child survivor of rubber bullets, but not tear gas. Photo by Chadya Tapiwa Diamond

After reporting to the police station, they were escorted back on the farm and the management promised to pay the wages which were due owing and payable. This promise has never been fulfilled since September 2015. Without food, electricity and water supplies, the farm workers survived on handouts and sharing the little they had. The farm owner categorically refused to reconnect electricity and waters supplies.

In December 2015 the farm labourers found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when they had to choose between abandoning any hopes of getting paid and dying of hunger. They were again kicked off from the farm violently and with them suffering from hunger, dehydration they left their place of residence which had quickly become a health hazard.

They have of late sought refuge at Villanova and Lephalale Police Stations, until they were housed at the Waterberg District Fire Station at Lephalale Fire Station. The Limpopo Emergency Disaster Management has offered shelter in form of tents, food and health services for the farm employees and they are always on standby.

Shelter at last. Photo by Chadya Tapiwa Diamond

Mosquito infested night life is better than sleeping in the farm veld. Photo by Chadya Tapiwa Diamond

Of late it has been a norm that the majority of the farm labourer's rights are abused and they continue to be victimized. South Africa has clear cut policies and bylaws in the agricultural sector but the plight of the farm labourer is not resolved on the ground. There is a lot that needs to be done for farm workers as they are generally not aware of their rights and their employers are making a killing out of this lack of knowledge.

It will be a travesty of justice for the employers to get away with such gross and inhumane abuse of human rights. The farm workers' labour rights are being butchered in South Africa. Those seeking to only put food on the table have fallen prey to the unrepentant employers.

As the wheels of justice start to take course against the farm employer, the migrant employees will remain housed temporarily at the Lephalale Fire Station with few or no basic amenities. Luxury does not appear in these migrants' day to day dictionary, but the sun will set on those who abuse human rights.

A child looks on as Gift of the Givers hands out parcels to the House of Hope - iThemba and ADWN community leaders. Photo by Chadya Tapiwa Diamond

Special thanks to African Diaspora Workers Network, House of Hope - iThemba, The Gift of the Givers, The Lephalale Joint Committee on Migration, and Churches like Christ Ward Church in Maraphong and By Fire by Force, the Lephalale Community, the Zimbabwean Consulate, the SAPS and many others. May the community continue to support those in need.

For more information contact Edward Muchatuta from House of Hope - iThemba on +27 74 727 9967 or +27 83 382 4156 or like their page on facebook on 'House of Hope IThemba'.

Ntate Moruti Chadya Tapiwa Diamond is a former student leader, Father, a Legal Practitioner, a Lecturer, a Researcher, a Political Analyst-cum-Activist, and is a man after God's heart like King David and serves as a resident Jnr. Pastor in the House of the Lord at Light House Ministries in Gauteng. He read law the University of KwaZulu Natal and is Researching towards an LLM. He concomitantly lives in the Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. He can be contacted on 27 (0)84 566 2756 or email him at,or twitter @mantronieqscie or like Tapiwa Diamond Chadya on facebook. He writes in his own personal capacity.

Source - Ntate Moruti Chadya Tapiwa Diamond

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