Where is the law?

HARARE - Dark days hovering over farm workers and their families evicted from Mara Farm in Goromonzi, spotlighted the dearth of effective worker representation by the sector union on the farms now mostly owned by indigenous blacks.

After land ownership transferred to blacks over the last decade, it is inexcusable that farm workers should endure the worst forms of exploitation under tight-fisted fellow blacks on the pretext that our farmers are still new to the task and lack the wherewithal to meet their obligations.

It is quite disturbing that the so-called “new” farmers now allow exploitation of labour to bounce off their conscience.  

In most instances the crop of farm workers comprises second or third generation nationals of foreign origin born on the very piece of land from which they face eviction merely for demanding their dues.

The majority of these workers know no other home than their workplace, new owners have found it fit to condemn them into a modern form of indentured slavery.

That the farm owners resort to giving their employees little  or no choice to resolve labour-related issues encapsulates the anxiety farm workers have to contend with.  Either the worker has to abrogate his right to be paid on a regular basis and pander to the owner’s whims or they face the chop and become homeless.

These are the workers that have been the mainstay of agricultural activities and who make an immense contribution to food security as well as sustain the manufacturing industry from which it draws raw materials.

Most probably the new land owners know the farm worker’s dilemma and are quick to exploit it to their advantage.

The plight of former farm workers at Mara Farm goes to show how powerless trade unionism on the farms has become and how the representative union has failed to do anything about it.

Government has an obligation to intervene and ensure that the vulnerable workers are treated in a more humane manner other than as nuisances as has become the practice in the face of no other intervening structure.

While it is the right of the farm owner to hire and fire any of his or her workers for dereliction of duty or other misdemeanour, that right ought not infringe the worker’s right to be paid.

The law becomes null when it fails to consider the plight of a victim or protect the poor, opting to awarding restitution to a complainant in the form of forcible eviction without compelling the complainant to meet his obligations first before the law takes effect.

Unless government puts its foot down, farm workers and their families will continue to rue and moan in their helplessness. - Staff Writer

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