THE Eastern Cape government will host a two-day Indaba to listen to the plight of farmworkers in the province.
The indaba, organised by the department of agriculture and rural development, will start today at Osner Hotel in East London.
Spokesperson Yvonne Matsheketwa said: "The government wants to give farmworkers a platform to voice their plight. They should tell government what they have benefited since the dawn of democracy 15 years ago."
She said while a number of measures, including legislation, had been put in place to protect both farmworkers and dwellers, most did not enjoy basic social achievements.
She said the achievements included the democratic dispensation such as better wages and improved and fair employment conditions.
Matsheketwa said through the indaba, the government aims to develop a programme with clear goals and tasks, and a means to monitor and evaluate this.
She said a programme of action would be drawn up with farmers, workers, unions, local government and national and provincial departments.
"Issues to be discussed include improved working conditions such as job security, access to unions and better working hours. Social services like adequate housing, schools, healthcare, transport, access to water, electricity and to social grants will also be discussed," Matsheketwa said.
The indaba will also discuss ways to protect workers' rights in both physical and emotional abuse, access to land and evictions, while the empowerment of farm workers in areas like training and employee schemes will also form part of the deliberations.
She said Premier Noxolo Kiviet and MEC for agriculture and rural development Mbulelo Sogoni would be present at the event.
The Food and Allied Workers Union welcomed the indaba.
Provincial organiser December Mjo said: "Farmworkers are still oppressed. They have not experienced freedom like other sectors."
He said some workers were not allowed to take leave and worked on Sundays without being paid.
Mjo said the union would use the indaba to push for compliance with legislation that protects farmworkers.
He said they would also urge the Department of Labour to monitor working conditions on the farms.
A similar summit was held in Gauteng several weeks ago, where farmers were criticised for not releasing workers to celebrate historical holidays like Freedom Day.
Matsheketwa said there were other challenges in the agriculture sector relating to the welfare and wellbeing of farmworkers, and that these should be addressed.
She said some farmers continued to physically attack and illegally evict workers and dwellers.