Respect farm workers

HARARE - Across our southern border, farm workers are on strike.

Those South Africans know how to strike; strongly controlled front lines, large numbers of well-organised participants, placards, loud hailers and all accompanied by enthusiastic song and dance.

According to the placards our neighbours are earning R69 equivalent to $7,76 a day working on farms and they are demanding R150 which is equivalent to $ 16.88 a day.

This translates to a present wage of $232 a month and a demanded increase that would see their monthly pay being just over $500 a month.

As they say across the border, it is no wonder three million Zimbabweans have left their families and dodged authorities in order to live and work down South over the last decade.

For farm workers in Zimbabwe, $ 7,76 a day would be a small fortune, not to mention our southern neighbours who are demanding $16,88 a day for doing farm work.

It is not easy getting any information about the situation on Zimbabwe’s farms now that they have been revolutionised, resettled and carved up into plots.

The handful of remaining commercial farmers who are either leasing farms from politicians or war veterans or have somehow managed to hang on to little squares of their own farms, are  not paying anywhere near $7,76 a day to their workers.  

In fact they are paying between $2,50 and $2,80 a day, a third of the amount their counterparts in South Africa are earning and striking because they say it is inadequate.

Farm workers in Zimbabwe consider themselves lucky if they take home $85 a month, even luckier if they have overalls to wear and maybe raincoats and gum boots.

What farm workers employed by ‘‘new’’ farmers are earning remains a dark secret, it would be no surprise if it is much less.

In addition to the $85 a farm worker earns a month, he also gets accommodation and a basic subsistence food ration of maize meal, cooking oil and a couple of other items.

Zimbabwe’s farm workers are still left with the problem of surviving on $85 a month in a country where the poverty datum line for a family of six is over $500 a month.  

There is just not enough left for school fees, medication, clothing or transport, not to mention anything to give quality of life.  

The case of Mara Farm in Ruwa has been in the news again in recent weeks and exposes the terrible plight of people living and working on Zimbabwe’s redistributed farms.
The new owner of Mara Farm has evicted the farm workers, one of whom said they had no food or shelter and their children were no longer going to school.

“Most of these kids do not even know how to read or write,” he said, accusing the new farmer of using the children as cheap labour on the farm.

“We are all Zanu PF here that is why we possessed the farm from the whites, but if it turns out to be a fellow black man tormenting another black man, then it becomes unbearable,” one man in the area told the press.

When the Goromonzi South MP visited the evicted farm workers who are living out in the open, he said: “The farm workers are being treated like slaves. These people deserve their dignity and respect in this country.”

What a disgrace that this should be happening on redistributed farms especially when it comes at a time when the UN are preparing to feed 1,7 million people because yet again we have not been able to grow enough food for ourselves, blaming the weather for the twelfth year in a row. - Cathy Buckle

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