‘New’ farmers abuse labourers

The misguided and corrupt land “reform” programme has brought untold misery to farm workers who are in distress as new employers neglect them.

The General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Gapwuz, has warned of a “silent war” against thousands of workers.

David Mutambirwa, a senior officer with Gapwuz based in Karoi farming town about 204 kilometers north-west of Harare within, said workers were being abused and their human rights trampled upon.

“Before land reform, we used to enforce Statutory Instrument 232 of 1993 that made it mandatory for a farm worker to earn his or her salary on or before the fourth day of the following month. Unfortunately, it is no longer the case as some have gone for over six months without salaries,” he said.

Long delays

Mutambirwa lamented the delays by labour arbitrators who take a long time to resolve salary disputes. “Some workers have died waiting for awards on their disputes as arbitrators take several years to work out these cases.

He major suspects are politicians who underpay their workers. When we challenge them they turn political and this affects our operations. Farming is a form of business that must be divorced from politics altogether,’’ he added.

Currently, the farm workers lowest grade salary is pegged at $72, plus $10 for electricity. But very few are getting that amount.

“It is unfortunate that some workers are living in squalid conditions after vandalism that affected many farms during the invasions. Land reform was political as former workers were never considered for resettlement. Unfortunately, the new farmers exploit the workers using political muscle,” said Mutambirwa.

No health workers

The majority of the farms no longer have farm health workers who are mandated to oversee the health welfare of all workers, he added. “Our health sector has collapsed and we cannot expect miracles at the farms.

We are concerned about the education of farm workers’ children as satellite schools established do not have adequate personnel and face many challenges. Some children are using tobacco barns as classroom blocks. This affects their health in the long run, but those in authority seem not to care,’’ he said.

Another major concern is about bogus unions and splinter groups claiming to represent the workers. They demand affiliation and fees from the workers but never represent them, according to Mutambirwa.

“The farming sector has been greatly affected by bogus splinter groups that demand money from the workers and it has affected our subscription base. In Mashonaland West we have had many of these. The suspects walk free although they are acting criminally. Government is not acting on these fake groups as they are politically connected,’’ he said.

Post published in: Agriculture

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