Farm dwellers reveal human rights abuses - Evictions, intimidation tactics

Farm evictions, murders of workers and water cut-offs are some of the issues the commission of inquiry into the socioeconomic conditions of farm dwellers will have to investigate.

The committee appointed by Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza held hearings in Ermelo where farm dwellers told of how their rights were being violated by farmers.

Some have been hit by electricity cut-offs while others could not visit the graves of relatives.

The newly formed Gert Sibande rural community task team also raised concerns about the living conditions on farms.

Chairman Malibongwe Soko said they were worried about the increasing trend of farmers denying dwellers the right to bury their relatives on the farms.

"People are being forced to bury in nearby townships. It cannot be right. Some people cannot visit their loved ones buried on these farms," Soko said.

"Farmers are charging R400 rent and have cut off water supply. They are now forced to drink from boreholes with dogs and cows."

Jeanette Gama said she had been living at Tweefontein farm near Ermelo for 35 years.

"I was living peacefully and my cows had two camps for grazing until two years ago when a new farmer arrived. He fenced us off and now my cows are forced to go [and] eat by the road side and it is not safe," said Gama who worked for the previous owner as a domestic worker.

Allegations of gross violations of human rights have surfaced during these public hearings.

Farm dwellers reported forced evictions, cutting of electricity connection, intimidation tactics, retrenchments and early retirement of workers injured, among others.

The commission is expected to conclude its work in March and then submit a full report.

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