As the government beef up on measures to put an end to farm killings, the Parliament rejected a motion proposed by the EFF to establish an ad hoc committee to look into the living and working conditions of farmworkers and farm dwellers.
During the debate in the National Assembly on Thursday, the EFF’s Sam Matias said they wanted the House to note and recognise the pain farmworkers and dwellers went through every day.
Matiase said “Farmworkers and farm dwellers are among the most vulnerable groups in this country”.
Matiase listed challenges faced by farmworkers and dwellers that ranged from working long hours without overtime payment, lack of access to paid leave, sick leave, maternity leave and retirement fund, among others.
He added that “We therefore ask that this House establish an ad hoc committee in terms of Rule 253 of the rules of the National Assembly to conduct a comprehensive review of living and working conditions of farmworkers in South Africa”.
ANC MP Mandla Mandela said the ANC shared the concerns and felt the pain of the harsh realities experienced by farmworkers all over the country, especially in the Western Cape.
Mandela said they should avoid the appetite of playing with the vulnerability of people and use their emotions and genuine plight to advance narrow political ends.
“We, therefore, trust our respected colleagues in the EFF are not harbouring such intentions with the introduction of this debate on the draft resolution.”
He said there was a mammoth task confronting the country on economic reconstruction and economic recovery post Covid-19.
Mandela said the parliamentary committee on agriculture should exercise oversight on work done towards improving the living conditions of farmworkers.
Mandela added that “I therefore want to invite our colleagues in the EFF to raise issues within the portfolio committee”.
DA MP Annette Lotriet said the agricultural sector played a critical role in the well-being of every citizen in the country. She said “It is in the best interests of farmers and farmworkers to be given the attention it deserves”.
However, she charged that the draft resolution was making sweeping statements aimed at causing divisions and animosity. She said “The resolution as it stands is a disservice to the very farmworkers it purports to support,” Lotriet said before suggesting amendments to the draft proposal including reviewing the work done by the agricultural sector.
Freedom Front Plus MP Tammy Breedt said the vilification of farmers has reached a new low. “This motion is nothing but cheap politicking by a party that has become out of touch with reality and its constituency,” Breedt said before challenging the EFF to open a criminal case if it was aware of any wrongdoings.
Breedt said labour inspectors should play their part and be vigilant in carrying out their job.
The IFP’s Xolani Ngwezi said the ad hoc committee would not be a solution to the problems on the farms.
Ngwezi said there were tools to assist the vulnerable, but the question to be asked was why they were not being used.
He said “The establishment of yet another committee might create an impression that we are intent to help this vulnerable group but this is however another talk shop”.
Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha said the issue raised by the EFF was emotive and did not need an ad hoc committee.
He also said “We have all the mechanisms that we need to implement what is right”.