SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

13 February 2013

South Africa: SA Agriculture 'Needs New Social Accord'

A social accord in agriculture, based on improved human rights, would help South Africa to market its farm produce overseas and ensure stability in the sector, government ministers told farmworkers during a dialogue session in Paarl in the Western Cape on Tuesday.

Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman said a social pact based on improved human rights between organised agriculture, farmworkers and the government was necessary.

This, while Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told farmworkers that South Africa would push to label its export produce as "ethically produced".

In a dialogue session led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, farmworkers told government ministers about concerns over evictions, deductions made by farmers to their take-home pay, and the increasing number of foreign nationals who were working on farms in the region.

Assistance 'to be linked to working conditions'

Tony Ehrenreich, Western Cape secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), said about one-million farmworkers had been evicted since 1994 because of a failure for farmers to work together with workers.

Ehrenreich said that authorities had to take measures against the threat of some farmers who, he said, were evicting or sacking workers to spite the new minimum wage agreed to by farmers, workers and the government.

During a dialogue session earlier on Tuesday, farmers raised concerns about how the sector would remain competitive with the gazetting last week of the R105 minimum wage a day for farmworkers, and called for tariff increases and incentives to protect the sector.

Speaking to farmworkers at the dialogue, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said any assistance that was offered to farmers, such as tax incentives or funding, would be linked to improving conditions for farmworkers.

The sector needed forums and even collective bargaining to ensure that farmworkers and farmers were able to sit around the same table, Joemat-Pettersson said, calling on farmworkers to report any victimisation, including evictions, to the authorities.

Violence 'not the way to go'

Violence in strikes was not the way to go as this would only lose respect and support for farmworkers, she said.

Western Cape Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg also urged farmworkers to abide by the law and to report any incidents of crime to the nearest authorities.

For farmworkers wanting to report evictions, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti urged them to phone the department's toll-free number 0800 007 095.

Nkwinti also urged land claimants to submit applications as soon as possible after President Jacob Zuma last month re-opened the land claims process.

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was busy compiling a manual to help applicants make land claims, Nkwinti added.

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