In a joint virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour deliberated on the draft report on the living and working conditions of farm workers, farm dwellers, labour tenants and farmers.
In November 2020, the National Assembly mandated the Committees to conduct comprehensive oversight work on the living and working conditions of farm workers, farm dwellers and farmers.
The resolution recommended that both committees monitor progress made by government’s commitments towards improved living and working conditions in the farming communities, including work done by different stakeholders in the agricultural sector; conduct public hearings with key stakeholders; undertake an impact assessment of legislation affecting farm workers and make recommendations for legislative amendments.
During the deliberations, Members expressed serious concern over the employment of foreign nationals in the agricultural sector, and indicated that the continued trend and its massive scale contributed directly to the unemployment of South Africans, particularly the youth. There was a strong view from the Committee that employment opportunities in the sector should be reserved for South African youth only, and that foreign nationals should be employed only in extreme situations, such as when the number of local farm workers could not meet the demand.
Another issue which many Members raised was the safety and security of farmers and farm labourers. The Joint Committee was of the view that it needed to engage with the South African Police Service to discuss the issue. There was also concern that justice had not been served for farm workers and labourers, and that in many cases where farm labourers were abused, attacked or even murdered, the perpetrators simply got away with impunity.
The basic education and welfare of children living in farming communities were mentioned by several Members as well. It was of concern that those children had to walk long distances to schools, or worse, were deprived of the right to basic education and had to become labourers on the farms.
Among other issues raised were the departmental officials who were allegedly involved in taking bribes, the amendment of the Land Tenants Act (LTA) and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA), the application of occupational health safety standards to private households to include domestic workers, and ensuring access to water and electricity for farm labourers and dwellers.
Members noted that many of the issues repeatedly raised in the public hearings over previous years were not being attended to. They therefore urged the Department to take action and attend to those issues, instead of doing talk shows all the time.
Chairperson Mandela said the joint meeting was to brief the Committee on the draft report of the oversight visits that the two Committees had conducted. The oversight included visits to farm workers, farm dwellers, labour tenants and farmers to learn about their living and working conditions. The details of the visits had been compiled into the report due to be presented in the meeting.
Dr Tshililo Manenzhe, Content Advisor: Land Reform and Rural Development, took the Committees through the draft report.
Read final approved report: ATC221110: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; and Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour on the joint oversight on the living and working conditions in farming communities, Dated 04 November 2022
Chairperson Mandela thanked Dr Manenzhe for the briefing and opened the floor for Members to make inputs.
Mr N Hinana (DA) stressed the importance of Committee Members ensuring the implementation of the recommendations, as many fundamentally important issues had arisen during the oversight visits across the country. Specifically, Members had noted the public’s inputs that previous ministers had held public hearings where members of the public had put forward the very same suggestions and inputs, but nothing had been done.
He noted the lack of budget to attend to some of the issues that had emerged from the public hearings conducted by the Department of Agriculture.
He emphasised the critical role of active police intervention in ensuring the safety of agricultural communities. He said private security companies continued to harass people, and the judicial system continued to fail to protect farm workers against members of those private security companies against whom charges had been laid charges. He believed that the report should include that point.
He suggested adding the Department of Social Development to the list of governmental departments that should be involved in farming issues. Most specifically, it should help members in the agricultural sector who were suffering from substance abuse or who were HIV positive.
The report should clearly state the Committee’s view on the weak institutions under the Department, identify their impact, and develop mitigation strategies. It should conclude with a sentence that explicitly states the Committee’s view that the government needed to make substantial efforts to improve the working conditions of farm workers and dwellers.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) indicated that the minority report, which was part of the Presidential Advisory Panel and had been mentioned during the question and answer (Q&A) session with the President, needed to be included.
She recalled the Committee’s oversight visits to the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape, during which Members found a lack of water access for farm dwellers. She suggested that a specific recommendation be inserted to reference the obligations of the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Water and Sanitation.
Mr M Nontsele (ANC) suggested that the report should include the adoption of the Expropriation Bill in the amendment process of the Land Tenants Act (LTA) and the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA). His observation was that although government was forced to compensate farm workers who had been living and contributing to farms for generations, the farmers who hired the workers were not compensating them.
He wanted to establish how budgets were being used, and referred to Annexure 1, which referred to the gross misconduct of officials in KZN, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. His constituency had reported that identified beneficiaries had not got farms as those allocated to them were often claimed by other people.
He supported the amendment of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. He reminded the Committee that the Constitutional Court had granted the application of safety measures to domestic workers, effectively turning private premises into workplaces.
He was unsure whether the conflation of the Compensation Fund and the retirement funds would create more problems. He was of the view that the Committee should rather consider the amendment of the sectoral definition, to include the minimum labour standards for farm workers.
Mr Nontsele suggested that the report should include a proposal that the Committee should meet with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to ensure the extension of basic services such as water and electricity to farm workers and dwellers.
He commented on the backlog in implementing the Department's various plans. He said the Minister must take steps to attend urgently to all performance targets that were underachieved, as it had been a legacy issue for more than a decade.
Ms Breedt said that as her colleague Ms H Denner (FF+) was unable to join the platform, she had asked her to make the inputs instead.
Ms Denner wanted to highlight the ripple effect of farm attacks and murders on farm workers and dwellers. She suggested the Committee conduct an oversight visit to Gauteng and include this point as an observation.
She indicated that many of the requirements proposed by departments such as the Department of Employment and Labour, were adding burdens to employers in the agricultural sector.
Mr S Mdabe (ANC) said the report should include the need for basic education for the children living in farming communities, as some of them were simply growing up to become farm labourers.
He suggested including the issue of illegal immigrants in the report. Illegal immigrants were spread throughout the country, and the Committee needed to engage with the Department of Employment and Labour to attend to the matter.
He enquired about the Legal Aid board’s report on the recommendations concerning the eviction of farm workers and dwellers.
Chairperson Dunjwa suggested holding a joint committee meeting with the Departments of Justice and Correctional Services (DJCS) and Home Affairs (DHA) to discuss the illegal immigrants' issue. She commented that during an oversight visit, a DHA official had complained that the DJCS was failing the DHA as it often released the people that the DHA had arrested. The Committee should use that joint session to get to the bottom of the question of what the challenge was.
She expressed concern at the corruption and bribery allegations which clouded the conduct of some of its official inspectors in the Department of Employment and Labour. The Free State and KZN had both launched investigations into this issue, and she wanted to know the outcome of those investigations. She had heard stories of corrupt officials using official vehicles to load livestock.
Ms B Tshwete (ANC) stressed the huge role the agricultural sector played in the national economy, comprising 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP), and insisted that the employment of foreign nationals must be regulated. In the Sarah Baartman Municipality, 60% to 70% of farm workers were foreigners. Their employment was hampering economic and employment growth. She also highlighted the criminal activities conducted by some foreign nationals in the country.
Ms M Tlhape (ANC) supported her colleagues’ view that the employment of foreigners must be regulated. She was mindful of the welfare, social needs and education of children in the farming communities.
She drew the Committee’s attention to the judicial system, and remarked that it may be unfair as many cases that were opened by farm labourers against their employers never led to justice, as their employers were never exposed.
Mr N Masipa (DA) suggested to the Committee Secretariat that the recommendations needed to be presented in a numbered format. He emphasised that the issue of tenure rights was something the Department must focus on so that the Extension of Security of Tenure Act (ESTA) could be used as a protective measure, rather than the reactive mechanism it currently was.
He indicated the importance of engaging with Home Affairs to discuss the manning of borders.
Mr Nontsele added to the issue of foreign nationals, and proposed regulating the employment of foreign workers in the labour market. He asked the Committee to call on the Minister of Employment and Labour to expedite the policy on foreign workers, and ensure quotas were being adhered to.
Chairperson Mandela was of the view that the report had omitted many details of the oversight visits, and should be made more explicit on some of the details.
Firstly, the Committee had noted the gross violations affecting farm workers and dwellers which were happening on a daily basis. In the Gert Sibande District Municipality, there were farm workers who farm owners had shot in the presence of the police. Despite the egregious nature of the matter, nothing had been done -- no case was opened and no arrests were made. To make the matter worse, the very same farmer had gone to the neighbouring farm and shot and killed two brothers living on the farm. He said the South African judicial system was doing a great injustice by not ensuring that the rights and lives of farm workers and dwellers were being protected at their places of work. He suggested having a real engagement with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to work on the issue.
Secondly, there was a real concern reported by farm workers and dwellers that departmental officials were involved in bribery and fraudulent activities. There should be a recommendation to the relevant departments to look into those matters. He noted the grave disappointment and frustration that some communities had towards the Department. In Piet Retief, the community wanted the Minister to close down its office and appoint new people to serve the community better.
Thirdly, Chairperson Mandela concurred with his colleague on protecting children and their concern over the welfare of those who lived in those farming communities.
On the issue of foreign nationals, he said that given the fact that 66% of the youth were unemployed in South Africa, he believed the Committee should put in a recommendation that all foreign nationals must be prohibited from working on any of the farms. Farming opportunities should be reserved for South African youth first. If the number was not filled, then farm owners could consider employing legal foreigners with proper documentation. In most instances, many foreign nationals were unable to provide documentation during their oversight visits.
Mr Masipa said the Committee should include in its report the need for the devolution of the powers of the police to the provinces. He was of the view that there was no clear evidence that the district development model (DDM) was working anywhere in the country, so he did not think he could support that recommendation.
Dr Manenzhe noted the Committee’s inputs and accepted that the report needed to be more specific on key issues. He explained that the document was accompanied by annexures which contained the specific points that Members had mentioned. He acknowledged that there were omissions in the recommendations section of the report -- some of the issues, such as children living on farms, were mentioned in the report but were not included in the recommendations.
He agreed that institutional arrangements such as security of tenure needed to be strengthened.
He referred to the issues contained in the minority report mentioned by Ms Breedt. He said that if they were related to the specific recommendations affecting farm workers, farm dwellers and labour tenants, it could be assumed they were part of the report that had just been presented. The National Assembly had to consider them.
On the expropriation issue, Dr Manenzhe said that although the report did not explicitly specify and elaborate on the issue at length, she noted the input during the deliberations. He pointed out to the Committee that it was difficult to expropriate the land by law because the Expropriation Bill had not been passed into law yet.
He noted the Member’s input on including private dwellings under the occupational safety standards.
He said Members would recall that during their oversights, the labour inspectors were able to distinguish and provide an accurate number of South Africans versus foreigners employed on a farm. However, it had also emerged from those visits that the inspectors were unable to distinguish whether those foreigners were documented or not.
Dr Manenzhe noted the request for information on the outcome of the investigations into the misconduct of North West officials.
He also noted the proposal that labour migration required inter-governmental coordination.
The judicial system and its fairness had been included in the report. In this regard, Dr Manenzhe proposed the Committee should recommend that the Legal Aid Board be the training authority to provide training on legal matters for police officers, magistrates and those who were responsible for the compilation of probation of reports.
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) said that the employment of foreign nationals could be referred to in the national labour migration policy of the Department of Employment and Labour, which was accessible on the Department’s website.
The issue of labour inspectors involved in bribery had been raised before. The conundrum was that in the absence of pinpointing the culprits, it was difficult for the Department to properly address the issue.
Chairperson Dunjwa reminded the content advisors and researchers that those issues were brought forward by Members, and specific details had been provided when their constituents had referred such bribery issues to them.
Chairperson Mandela clarified that all the findings of the Committee were contained in the report of each province. The report before Members therefore needed to be read together with the provinces’ reports in order to understand the specific details.
Mr Nontsele understood the Chairperson’s point, but pointed out that merely having those inputs included in the report was insufficient. As Members were well aware, what mattered and what showed Parliament’s oversight role was the content in the recommendations, which the executive branch of government was obliged to account for. He expressed the view that Committee Members had unintentionally been giving too much latitude to people who were not Members of Committees, and that created problems. He therefore insisted that the recommendations and inputs which Members had just made must be included in the recommendations section of the report.
Ms Nontobeko Qwabe, Parliamentary Researcher, informed the Committee that the only skill that was categorised as a scarce skill was sheep shearing, so only foreign nationals who possessed that skill were permitted to work in the agricultural sector in the country.
Mr Teboho Mokoena, Committee Researcher, commented that most issues which Members had just raised were covered in provincial reports, and proposed ways should be found to refer to those provincial reports in the main report.
Ms Breedt suggested a timeframe be given for the completion of those amendments which had been suggested. She also wished to indicate the objection of the FF+ to the report.
Mr Hinana registered the Democratic Alliance’s objection to the report.
The adoption of the report received majority support, and the report was adopted with amendments.
Mr S Matiase (EFF) said the EFF supported the report, adding that it showed all the more reason that the economy remained in the hands of a few, and that socialism was something worth fighting for. He quoted the Commander-in-Chief of the EFF's observation that children of the poor were living in worse conditions than those of animals on the farms. He therefore strongly criticised the objections of the DA and FF+, and said that both parties should be ashamed of themselves.
Chairperson Dunjwa highlighted what Members had witnessed during the oversight visits. She reminded the joint Committee that some farm children had to walk five kilometers to go to school, and referred to the horrid conditions in which some farm workers lived. She concluded by saying that freedom and democracy were still a pipe dream for some South Africans.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
Dunjwa, Ms ML
Mandela, Nkosi ZM
Bagraim, Mr M
Breedt, Ms T
Capa, Mr N
Cebekhulu, Inkosi RN
Denner, Ms H
Hinana, Mr N
Masipa, Mr NP
Matiase, Mr NS
Mbabama, Ms TM
Mdabe, Mr SW
Ngcobo, Mr SL
Nontsele, Mr M
Tlhape, Dr ME
Tshwete, Ms B
Wolmarans, Mr M
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