More than 50 foreign nationals at Die Groene Oase farm in Vredendal claim that they have been forced to fraudulently obtain South African IDs by the farmer.
One group of 20 farm workers had to pay R4,000 each while another 20 had to pay R5,000 each.
According to the farm workers they paid for the IDs in installments deducted from their salaries every month.
“In 2015, the farmer approached all foreigners and forced them to have South African IDs but I told him I had the Zimbabwean Special Permit that allowed me to work and study in the country till December 2017. He did not recognise this,” says John (not his really name).
John is employed as a truck driver and stays on the farm. He signed a contract that entailed a 13-hour work day and he will get accommodation with water and electricity.
Hell broke loose when three farm workers were arrested trying to buy stuff on credit from some reputable retail shops.
“We were all shocked to note that some of us were arrested for possession of fraudulent IDs. It surprised us because we all thought these were genuine,” says John.
Most of the farm workers now want the money back but this will come with a cost.
“Once one asks for repayment of money paid on fraudulent IDs the next hour you are called for a meeting and later dismissed,” he says.
Other victims are afraid to come into the open fearing to lose their jobs.
Instead of enjoying free electricity and water, according to John the farmer now has installed meter boxes in each house. The R82 some of the occupants pay for electricity every week is deducted from their salaries.
According to the farm workers, the contract they signed offered free accommodation and electricity.
“The most painful thing is I work at the farm together with my wife. He deducts the same amount from my wife yet we stay in the same house,” says John.
Another foreign national, Chamunorwa (not his real name) from Zimbabwe who was dismissed on Thursday last week on grounds of being disloyal to the employer says, “This employer is cunning. Once you request explanation for deductions on your payslip he summons you to the office. He does not want to hear your side of the story. Ultimately you get dismissed.”
According to him several foreign nationals have lost their jobs through this.
Chamunorwa is also a truck driver. He says he is supposed to work 13 hours per day. For anything beyond that they do not get paid any overtime.
“Usually when I drive to Cape Town and back delivering goods, the farmer does not allow us to fill in times we started and ended the day. We know its more than our normal working day. No-one has ever received that overtime money,” he says.
But all Chamunorwa is looking to get back for now is the R5,000 paid for the IDs. The farmer refused to speak to Elitsha about the allegations.