Ploughing into farming policies

The difficulty in implementing policies designed to protect the interests of farmworkers and farmers has prompted the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to conduct an inquiry into conditions on farms.

The difficulty in implementing policies designed to protect the interests of farmworkers and farmers has prompted the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to conduct an inquiry into conditions on farms.

SAHRC spokesman Vincent Moaga said yesterday that public hearings on farm conditions would examine three issues: land tenure security, labour relations and safety on farms.

He said, though, the policy objectives related to these legislative changes were laudable, it could be argued that the unintended consequence has created more strife and has left farmers more defensive and farmworkers worse off.

"The policy changes that occurred in the agricultural sector include the inclusion of farmworkers into the Labour Relations Act of 1995, and the promulgation of legislation such as the Sectoral Determination for Farm Workers, Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 [Esta] and Labour Tenants Act of 1996," he said.

He said the Marketing of Agricultural Products Act of 1996 meant that farmers were increasingly pressured by internal and external global forces to remain competitive.

"To a large extent these policies were designed to create equity, a more commercially viable agricultural sector and to protect the interests of both farmworkers and farmers," he said.

The contradiction, however, was that farmers were forced to make use of labour-saving technology to become more competitive while simultaneously the state expected them to provide the social welfare tab for farmworkers.

Secondly, many of the policies have been difficult to implement and enforce in the agricultural sector. - Sapa

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