farmers accused of exploiting immigrants
FARMERS in Limpopo are allegedly giving Zimbabweans a salary of R400, a bag of mealie-meal and potatoes after a month of hard labour.
A farm rights organisation yesterday said farmers were taking advantage of illegal Zimbabweans and were exploiting, robbing and abusing them after luring them to work on their farms around Mogwadi, formerly Dendron.
Nkuzi Development Association lawyer Shirhami Shirinda said farmworkers were working long hours for a mere R400 a month, local people allegedly get a minimum wage of R885 for doing the same job as the Zimbabweans.
The organisation said Zimbabweans also had their monies deducted by farmers who claimed the deductions were for the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
But Shirinda said foreigners were not eligible to pay UIF as they were not South African citizens with a "nationality status in the Labour Department".
The exposè comes after several Zimbabweans lodged complaints with lawyers for human rights and the association in Musina.
They claimed that they ran away from farms because they were subjected to beatings and abuses by the farmers.
Most Zimbabweans fled their country in July last year when South Africa announced it was offering them asylum status in Musina. They had gathered at the small town in search of "a better life" but were instead left at the mercy of the farmers.
The organisation had gathered evidence from farm workers who claimed they were forced to work abnormal hours. Shirinda said farmers abusing workers and deducting UIF and pension funds from their salaries were committing a crime. "It is an unfair labour practice for farmers to abuse workers, irrespective of their nationalities. Doing so is also a violation of their human rights," he warned.
He said they discovered that farmers were paying Zimbabweans less than R500 a month.
Shirinda said labour recommendations are that workers should not be paid less than R700.
Spokesperson for the Labour Department Page Boikanyo said they would investigate the claims.
Mogwadi police also confirmed that they were investigating several cases of abuse against some farmers in the area.