On Workers Day 1 May 2022, farm workers of the surrounding farms and areas where CSAAWU is operating, namely De Doorns, Rawsonville, Worcester, and Robertson, came together to talk about their challenges.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the farm workers’ revolt, when workers protested in 2012 against low wages as well as poor living and working conditions. Today nothing has changed at all, because most of the conditions remain the same and farmworkers are still being evicted from farms.
One of the stories shared is that of Aaron and eight other workers who are facing eviction, because they joined the farm workers union, CSAAWU. Aaron addressed the crowd where he explained their situation and that workers should stand together as one.
In another case, the farm worker Valencia explained what had happened with the farm worker, Bertie, who had died in a tractor accident due to the owner’s negligence. This worker left behind a family of three children, the youngest being one year old. The farm owner described Bertie as one of his most loyal workers, yet the way the family was treated left much to be desired. Valencia asked out loud, ‘is this what the boere think of us?’
A young worker, Jakobus, said he was retrenched because he spoke out about the working conditions. Jakobus also mentioned that he did not want to end up like his parents, who worked until they were very old, with nothing to leave behind.
Mawubuye Land Rights Movement and CSAAWU also launched a campaign against xenophobia as a result of the recent violent clashes between Zimbabwean and Lesotho farm workers. CSAAWU asked their members to respect the rights of other workers, as all workers were suffering during these hard times and are being oppressed by commercial farmers and big companies which trample on workers’ rights. Undocumented workers are used as cheap labour for the sake of profit. We must address this problem and not fight among one another.
Deneco Dube, revolutionary activist from CSAAWU, referred to the racist white farmers as the oppressors and that workers still work as slaves and were being treated as such. ‘Our grandparents worked hard from sunrise until sunset with no time for themselves.’
‘That time that you worked, there was little money and you were rushed on to do the work. At times you were even beaten to death if you said something wrong. Before starting work in the morning, you were first given wine to make you drunk. The farmers often paid our people this way too. Our cry is for workers to stand up, stand together and fight together, to build workers’ organisations such as CSAAWU, Mawubuye and Inyanda” added Deneco.