Trade unions and farmworker organisations condemn #BlackMonday as racist

Farmers protest outside Cape Town Staduim. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

The Cosatu in the Western Cape has condemned the protest march by farmers on Monday. The protest was organised by AgriSA, Freedom Front+ and Afri-Forum. According to the statement released by Cosatu WC on Tuesday, the protest was racist and to be protesting ‘farm attacks’ and not ‘attacks that take place on farms’ “is an attempt to politicise the violence and isolate it to one group”.

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The Cosatu in the Western Cape has condemned the protest march by farmers on Monday. The protest was organised by AgriSA, Freedom Front+ and Afri-Forum. According to the statement released by Cosatu WC the following day, the protest was racist and to be protesting ‘farm attacks’ and not ‘attacks that take place on farms’ “is an attempt to politicise the violence and isolate it to one group”.

This comes after thousands of farmers throughout the country called for the government to intervene in what they see as a criminal campaign against white farmers.

Dubbed #BlackMonday, the farmers and supporters were clad in black T-shirts. The Cape Town leg of the protest started in Stellenbosch and ended up outside Cape Town Stadium in Green Point.

“Enough is enough. We are not going to change this country from the government side but it’s the people who change the country. The crime rate is so bad but I believe if people change their hearts then crime will not be so high,” said Daniel Briers one of the organisers.

Hennie Hofmeyer who had come in support of the march says, “I believe murders in farms are politically motivated. The surprising thing is after the court ruling that people should stop singing the ‘kill the boer song’ people still sing [it]. Its being unfair.”

According to Hofmeyer, since 1994 many whites have been killed but the perpetrators do not get harsh punishments.

Hofmeyer was clad in a black T-shirt that had the old South African flag.

“This is the only flag I am proud of. The new flag is to unify us but I believe until the head of the snake is killed, the flag will not mean anything,” he said.

Hennie Hofmeyer has pride only in the old South African flag. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

“The fact that so many old South African flags were flown at the march without the organisers condemning it  shows that [they] support an agenda of bringing apartheid back into South African agriculture”, read Cosatu’s statement.

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Johan Burger, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, has disputed the claims by Afri-Forum of a ‘white genocide’, pointing out that there are more black farmworkers that are killed which is a reflection of the demographics on farms.

Violence against farmworkers

According to Women on Farms, a non-governmental organisation that promotes the rights of women who work in commercial agriculture in the Western and Northern Cape, farmworkers rights are daily violated by farmers. Colette Solomon, the director of Women On Farms, told Elitsha that farmworkers face all sorts of abuse from farmers.

“They are verbally, racially and physically abused.  They are also threatened and intimidated. Farmers illegally evict workers from farms and when working on the vineyards and orchards [workers] are not provided with toilets,” explained Solomon.

According to Cosatu’s statement,”The evictions and assaults and killings of farmworkers contribute to the unsafe and violent environment on farms.”

Women farmworkers bear the brunt of violence on farms according to Solomon. “Farmers protect male farmworkers who abuse their female partners if the man is a good worker. The farmer [will ask] the woman worker to withdraw the charges because the farmer doesn’t want to lose the male worker,” she said.

Karel Swart, the Deputy General Secretary of the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), told Elitsha that after conducting speak-outs on working and living conditions on farms, the union has reported that women farmworkers are raped and sexually harassed. “Many migrant women report they must first have sex with some farmers before they get work”, he said.

Food security 

At the protest, farmers were holding up posters about how the killing of farmers will lead to poverty and a lack of food.

According to the statement by Cosatu, “The food security debate is also one that has to be resolved. Farmers do not grow crops for food security; they grow crops to make profits, especially the commercial farming operations.”

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Farmworkers are paid low salaries and this means that they cannot afford to buy healthy food, according to Karel Swart. “They struggle to buy healthy food  and this makes them vulnerable to illness. Many died of hunger and malnutrition.”

Erika Botha-Rossouw, a councilor who had joined the march in support, said, “Hurting a farmer means one will be playing with food security. The farm killings should stop. Government should not hide the actually numbers of farm killings.”

Botha-Rossouw is from the Freedom Front Plus, one of the right wing organisations that promotes the rights of white people over blacks under the cover of protecting minority and cultural rights.

Marlene Conradie and her daughter. Her husband was recently murdered. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

Elitsha caught up with Marlene Conradie who has recently lost her husband in what she referred to as a brutal murder. It is a traumatic event she is still coming to terms with.

“I am not sure of what should be done to stop these killings but I believe prayer is the answer.We should spread the word of love not hurt,” she says.

According to Cosatu, the solution to farm murders is land redistribution. “Cosatu believes that only a more fair and equitable dispensation on farms will bring an end to the killings, as there can be no peace without justice. This is why farms like Solms-Delta, where there is 50/50 ownership and control by farmers and farmworkers, have such peaceful harmonious environments, where everybody looks out for each other.”

Funded by the government’s National Empowerment Fund (NEF), 45% of Solms-Delta Wine Estate in Franschoek, including its brand and land, is owned by the workers.

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