The poor fight over bones while the rich eat steak

passop_headerCAPE TOWN - In the past few weeks I have been involved with the displaced Zimbabwean asylum seeking community in De Doorns, who have been forced from their shacks in the surrounding townships.

The recent outbreak of xenophobic violence has been widely publicised as being caused by labour issues, but strangely the issue of labour brokerage or contractors has been under addressed. Here is the cause and the reason for the mass displacement in plain and hard-hitting English- MONEY. The cause of the recent violence is the loss of political influence for some local councillors and the loss of business by certain labour brokers (some of whom were also councillors). They were hit with the prospects of both a loss of income and a loss of votes. The frustrations of an unemployed, impoverished and desperate local population combined with the vulnerability of the Zimbabwean asylum seeker population provided xenophobic violence as a means of both garnering popularity and eliminating the competing Zimbabwean labour brokers.

zim_refugees2(Pictured: Displaced Zimbabweans after xenophobic violence)

The Zimbabwean labour brokers, called Spanners, and South African labour brokers who were supplying farmers labour for a fixed fee often failed to pay Zimbabweans wages for extra hours and denied them their basic employment rights. Indeed the minimum wage of about R57 a day for nine hours of hard labour should be the most basic, survival income but Zimbabweans often work a 12 hour day with no extra pay.

In addition to being denied overtime pay by labour brokers (which in my opinion does not indemnify the farmers obligation to ensure labour rights on their premises), the seasonal nature of employment in the grape vineyards of De Doorns also creates a dependency on South African Unemployment Funds (UIF). Zimbabwean asylum seekers are largely unable to claim their UIF because they are unaware of their rights and are also faced with difficulties such as the Labour Departments automated systems requiring a 13 digit identity number while Asylum Seekers documentation has only a seven figure identification number. The result is that as required by South African law, the labour brokers deduct 1 per cent of the wages of all the workers they supply, but in the case of the Zimbabweans they do not pay the UIF to government, and instead often steal it.

In my dealings with Zimbabweans in De Doorns during off season (work is available about six months a year) they face starvation. Hundreds of them wait for the rubbish trucks to dump fresh waste through which they scavenge for food. South Africans in contrast are able to claim social grants and UIF in the off seasons, and are no where to be seen at the rubbish dump.

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