Black workers in South Africa’s wine valley are being forced by white farmers to leave their homes. The accusation was made recently by South Africa’s agriculture minister Lulu Xingwana, who also accused white farmers of abusing and intimidating black workers. According to reports, white farmers still own an estimated 80 percent of South Africa’s farmland despite the government’s goal for black and mixed-race communities to own 30 percent of agricultural land by 2014.
Patrick Craven is national spokesman for the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). He said South Africa to quicken its land reform policy.
“We have been campaigning for a long, long time against the appalling state of labor relations in South Africa’s agricultural sector. It isn’t just the wine farms. It’s a daily occurrence, and we’re very pleased that this has now become the headlines because very often the farmers give the impression that the violence on farms is all directed against them. And we hope that the government, the trade unions, and indeed the whole of society can united to put an end to this, which is one of the last relics of the old apartheid and colonial systems which treated workers like slaves,” Craven said.
According to reports, white farmers still own an estimated 80 percent of South Africa’s farmland despite the government’s goal for black and mixed-race communities to own 30 percent of agricultural land by 2014. Craven said this does not come as a surprise to COSATU.
“We’ve always known that the problems we inherited would not be solved overnight, and this has proved one of the most intransigent. We believe that at the core of the problem is a very, very slow pace of land redistribution, something that the government is constitutionally obliged to carry out. And so we still have a completely both racially and from a class point of view a skewed ownership system by a very small minority, a very wealthy landowners own the land and the vast majority of the people are forced to earn a living by working on these big farms rather than having any opportunity to work for themselves either individually or cooperatively,” he said.
Craven said COSATU deplores the ill treatment of poor black farmers, including some who he said have been murdered. He said rather than deploy the violence, the South African government should address the underlying reasons for the violence, which he said, emanate from land ownership.