The Human Rights Commission (HRC) yesterday said most farmworkers in the eastern Free State are subjected to terrible working conditions and cruelty by their mostly Afrikaner employers.
The HRC is currently holding countrywide hearings into the work conditions for farmworkers.
Yesterday they interviewed about 100 farmworkers in Vrede, Memel and Warden.
Free State HRC chairman Mothusi Lepheana said one of the worst cases they'd heard was that of Alfred Ngwenya, who was illegally evicted from a farm in Memel.
He said Ngwenya had opened seven cases, including those of assault, theft of livestock and attempted murder, against a farmer, but none of them had reached court.
Instead, Ngwenya was charged and convicted after the farmer opened a case of theft against him because Ngwenya's daughter had collected firewood from the farm.
Ngwenya was released from prison only after the Landless People's Movement helped him launch an appeal.
Also yesterday, 56-year-old Miriam Sibeko related how she and her family were evicted from a farm in Memel last year.
She said she and her husband were severely assaulted during an attack in which a farm owner, accompanied by police, illegally evicted them.
"They came into our house with the boys who work for the farmer," said Sibeko. "They beat my husband with sticks and told him to leave the farm immediately. I tried to intervene but a policemen slapped me. I fell on the ground and the policeman insulted me.
"The boys who work for the farmer began dismantling one of our shacks while we were being assaulted. We were put on a truck and dumped on the outskirts of Zamani township."
Also present at the hearings yesterday was Free State land affairs official Nobesuthu Masholologu.
The hearings will be concluded in Johannesburg next Thursday and Friday.