South Africa: Numsa Statement On the Farm Workers Industrial Action in the Western Cape and Supports Suspension of the Strike By Cosatu

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN
A tractor driving through farmlands.

Abolish farm workers poverty wages!

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), all its 303, 000 strong members, everywhere in the country, demands that the government moves quickly to abolish the slave conditions and slave wages of all farm workers in the country.

We make this call in full support of all the striking and protesting farmworkers and their families and communities in the Western Cape. We also support the suspension of the strike by Cosatu.

It is a cruel irony that 100 years after the passing of the abominable 1913 Native Land Act 27, which gave more than 80 percent of the land in South Africa to white people, today, almost two decades into our so called new democratic order, farm workers must have to die when making the demand to have their daily minimum wage improved from R69.00 to R150.00.

Nothing better confirms the economic hollowness of the 1994 democratic breakthrough than the conditions and wages of farmworkers 18 years into the democratic dispensation. In fact, this singularly cruel situation raises serious moral and practical questions about the meaning of the so called “new democratic South Africa”.

The Freedom Charter clearly states that:

“There shall be a forty-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers;

Miners, domestic workers, farm workers and civil servants shall have the same rights as all others who work; Child labour, compound labour, the tot system and contract labour shall be abolished.”

Numsa challenges all farmers in South Africa to show that farm workers enjoy a forty-hour working week, are paid above the national minimum wage, enjoy paid annual leave and sick leave, have maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers!

It is a cruel indictment on COSATU, the entire ANC led Alliance and the ANC government that 18 years into the “new South Africa” farm workers must be shot at and killed for demanding a mere R150.00 minimum wage per day.

B. The 1913 Native Land Act 27 Black and African farm workers

It is today an established fact that the Native Land Act (27 of 1913), among its directly intended objectives was to overnight create a massive cheap supply of black and African labour for white farms, as the millions of land disposed Africans in particular needed to find work either on the mines or farms, in order to survive the effects of the dispossession.

This Act is a cornerstone to the creation of the conditions of extreme poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa, with white people occupying pride of place in the economy and society, and black people in general and Africans in particular being relegated to the bottom of the human pile.

The struggle for freedom in South Africa was fought, on the economic front, to right this historic injustice, the injustice of land dispossession of Africans and Black people.

Numsa demands the expropriation of land without compensation in order to right this historic injustice.

No struggle for freedom has ever been fought on the basis that the victims of historic injustices must compensate the cruel evil acts of the perpetrators.

C. Cosatu and the struggles of farm workers

As a union with worldwide international trade union contacts and networks, Numsa will consider embarking upon an international campaign to boycott the farm products of all farmers who are refusing to abolish the slave wages and slave conditions of farm workers.

We shall place this demand before the relevant Cosatu constitutional structures.

We further, this year, in our struggle for land justice in South Africa and in recognition of more than 100 years of the abominable Native Land Act of 1913 will be embarking upon nationwide campaigns to popularise the struggles of farmworkers and for the expropriation of land without compensation.

18 years is long enough to appreciate the most obvious fact: those who own disproportionately large tracts of land in South Africa have refused to recognise the cruelty of their continued ownership of such large amounts of land at the expense of national development.

D. Solidarity with farmworkers unions and other organisations

Numsa calls on all farm workers to shake off their fear and to join trade unions of their choice. Farmworkers fear is the greatest weapon the farm owners have, the second of course is the poor organisational state of farm workers.

Numsa stands ready to work with all Cosatu affiliates, particularly the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), which organises farm workers and in the entire food chain.

The 11th National Congress of Cosatu demands that all affiliates of Cosatu mobilise for the fight to abolish slave wages and slave working conditions. Numsa stands ready to do its bit.

For interview request contact:

Castro Ngobese, National Spokesperson – 083 627 5197

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InFocus

A Call to Abolish Slave Wages on SA Farms

A tractor driving through farmlands.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has urged government to move quickly to abolish the slave conditions and wages of all farm workers in the country. The strike was ... Read more »