Farmer faces rap for hiring under-age kids

McKeed Kotlolo

McKeed Kotlolo

A farmer accused of employing under-age children to pick beans, and then underpaying them, has turned himself over to police after keeping them on the hop for two weeks.

Piet Marais, of Streala Farm between Delmas and Leslie in Mpumalanga, turned up at Leslie police station yesterday, with his lawyer.

He is accused of allegedly hiring children as young as nine years to harvest beans on his farm for the sum of R35 a day.

However, the docket has been sent to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) so it can decide whether the state will prosecute.

Meanwhile, the complainants in the case, brothers David, nine, and Olebogeng Molefe, 10, their cousin, Mojava Molefe, 13, and friend Oratile Marumo, 14, from Modimolle village in Mafikeng, have been taken away from a place of safety in Bronkhorstspruit to Evander, pending the DPP's decision.

They were part of a group of more than 40 labourers from Mafikeng in North West recruited to work on the farm.

Delmas police removed the labourers, including four children aged between nine and 14, from the farm two weeks ago and had been looking for Marais since.

Constable Khabonina Skosana, of the Leslie police, said an agreement was reached that Marais would submit a statement that would be drawn up with his lawyer.

The children had allegedly told police that Marais had refused to pay them the R35 he had promised them. They also said he had not let them go home when schools reopened after the March holidays.

The boys said the farmer had wanted to pay them R25 a day after deducting money for food.

They, however, had reached an agreement of R27 a day, the boys allegedly said.