CSAAWU has accused the South African Police Services of colluding with farm owners when it comes to farmworkers laying charges against farmowners. This comes after a farmworker was taken to a deserted place and threatened with violence and death following a break-in at a farmer’s house in Paarl.
The Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) has accused the South African Police Services of colluding with farm owners when it comes to farmworkers laying charges against farmowners. This comes after a farmworker was taken to a deserted place and threatened with violence and death following a break-in at a farmer’s house in Paarl.
Enrico Baatjies had been working as a gardener and in the vineyard for the last five years. On Tuesday 22 August, he was called into a car by the farm owner and driven to the edge of the farm. He told Elitsha he did not suspect anything. “On the way, he asked me if I know where we are going and I said no. When we got to the veld, he asked me if i smoke tik and why I broke into his house and I must not f&*k with him and tell him the truth because he can kill me right there and no one will ever know,” Enrico told Elitsha. “It was in a deserted place and all the time he was saying that his gun was in the side panel of the door.”
The 30-year-old father of one said the ordeal lasted for two hours and the farmer told him not to tell anyone and that he must tell his co-workers that they went to pick up prunes.
Baatjies says that his ordeal did not stop there because when he went to the police station to lay a charge of abduction and being threatened with violence, he was told to go back home and apologise to the farmer. According to Enrico, whose parents were also farmworkers, he was told this by a “white female cop”.
The shopsteward at the farm, Johannes Rooi, said that they support Enrico and are standing together to make sure that what happened to Enrico will not be done to anyone else at the farm.
When Elitsha was speaking to other farmworkers, a young man from the farm claims that he was slapped by the farmer for not going to school. “My parents knew why I was not in school that day but he came to our house and he slapped me and I fell off the chair,” said Johan Joseph.
Another farmworker, Alexandra Deetlefs, said that they do not get paid for overtime. “They only see us as tools and they do not see us as humans,” he explained.
Deetlefs’s views were echoed by CSAAWU National Treasurer Peter Presence. “What happened here is similar to what happened to the worker in Mpumalanga [Editor: referring to the attempted murder and kidnap case where a worker was put in a coffin]. They don’t see the human side of the workers as long as workers do their job and make profits for the farmers,” said Presence. He is also the organiser for the union in the Cape Metropole.
“When workers go to the police they are not helped at the police station and it’s clear to us that the police are in the pockets of the farmers. There are two similar instances in the Paarl area where the police came and went to the farmer’s house and without talking to the workers, they put them in vans. This is a common phenomenon throughout the country,” said Presence. “We have escalated the case to the provincial office as it is clear that the cops at the police station are protecting the farmer.”
The Police Ministry said they will be engaging the communities through Imbizos on how to fight crime in farming areas and that they will escalate the issue to the Provincial Commissioner.
CSAAWU has vowed to mobilise farmworkers and communities to put pressure on the government and the police ministry to take such issues seriously.