AFRICANGLOBE – Farmworkers regularly complain of atrocities by South Africa’s predominantly White farmers, yet most don’t report it to the police for fear of dismissal or victimisation, NGOs say.
Mawubuye Landrights Movement’s Shirley Davids said that in five months workers had reported 20 cases in Ashton and Robertson to them.
In one case two months ago, a farmworker was allegedly assaulted and locked in the farmer’s house for a week. The worker’s daughter reported it to Mawubuye but the man did not want to pursue the case, Davids said.
“We sent the police to the specific farm but they said there was nothing there.
“Farmworkers don’t want to come forward with cases of assault. Most are scared of the farmers. I understand their situation,” Davids said.
She said Flippie Engelbrecht’s case nearly did not make it to court because the police had dismissed it.
“They (the Engelbrechts) went everywhere for help but no one would. I went to Carina Papenfus because the family needed help,” she said.
Davids said she had been contacted by a person at the weekend who said he had been beaten by one of the farmers who assaulted Engelbrecht. She was awaiting details.
Ida Jacobs of Women on Farms said the organisation used to receive assault complaints against farmers but in the past two years that had changed.
“We hear about workers being assaulted on a farm this week and on another farm the next. But we don’t have proof because the farmworkers don’t come to us,” Jacobs said.
In other cases, farmworkers felt the police didn’t take their complaints seriously or sided with the farmers.
Jacobs said one farmworker had recently been badly assaulted by a farmer’s son and his friends and he was ready to lodge a complaint with the police. But he changed his mind when the farmer offered to double his salary, she said.
Patricia Dyata, general secretary of farmworkers’ union Sikhula Sonke said there was a case in Wellington where a woman had allegedly been beaten by a farmer three months ago.
The woman had lodged a complaint against the farmer but the case was resolved when the farmer apologised she said. The farmworker was represented by the union.
“Sikhula Sonke will not tolerate abuse on farms. But it happens on farms that unions cannot get access to,” she said.
She also said farmworkers did not come forward with information because farmers “were too powerful in their areas”.
By: Xolani Koyana