EFF responds with racial abuse to critics of proposed ad hoc committee on farm workers

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(Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)
(Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)
  • The EFF accused opponents of its proposed ad hoc committee on farm workers of being racist and "house n******s".
  • The ANC does not support the proposal because there is already a portfolio committee tasked with what the EFF wants the ad hoc committee to do.
  • The DA said it would support it, but with amendments.  

EFF MP Sam Matiase called black MPs - who did not support his motion to establish an ad hoc committee to investigate the living conditions of farm workers and dwellers - "house n******s".

EFF MP Omphile Maotwe also threatened FF Plus MP Tammy Breedt she was coming for her farm after Breedt said the EFF was out of touch with the plight of farming communities.

Amid all this, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha warned against polarising the country.

In a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Thursday, Matiase's motion was debated, before it will be put before the full National Assembly at a later date.

Matiase's proposed motion noted farm workers and farm dwellers were among the most vulnerable group of people in this country.

"… historically, the relationship between farm owners and farm workers has always been mediated by violence and this dates back from the violence of forceful dispossession of the land to the slave-like work conditions on farms, from the complete disregard of the human rights of the young and the old, to the forceful and illegal evictions of people who have stayed on these farms for generations".

He said while they were directly involved in food production, farm workers often went without food for days, especially seasonal workers.

Matiase's motion "further acknowledges that it is also common practice amongst farmers to pay workers with wine, instead of money, therefore creating alcohol dependence that is destroying any prospects of a better future for farm workers and their families".

He said land dispossession "makes farm workers slaves in the country of their own birth, and farm owners, slave owners".

Matiase wanted an ad hoc committee to assess legislation affecting farm workers and farm dwellers in South Africa, and recommended legislative amendments to provide for more comprehensive protection of farm workers and farm dwellers, and to conduct public hearings with all interested and affected parties, including farm workers themselves, unions organising on farms and civil society organisations.

ANC MP Zwelivelile Mandela said the ANC "shares the pain of the harsh realities of farm workers".

He singled out the Western Cape, which he called the "cradle of the colonial project".

Mandela said it was mindboggling that 26 years into democracy, farm workers and dwellers were still being evicted.

However, he warned against using their plight for the advancement of political interests and said the proposed ad hoc committee was ill-advised as there already was a portfolio committee, which he chairs, dealing with such matters.

DA MP Annelie Lotriet said the agricultural sector - and all those involved in it - played a critical role in the well-being of every citizen.

"It is therefore important that the best interest of farmers and farm workers alike be given the attention and support it deserves and that everyone is treated with dignity and respect."

Lotriet added Matiase's motion in "making sweeping statements, making blanket accusations and aiming at causing division and animosity do more harm than good".

She said, as it stood, the motion was a disservice to the workers it purported to support.

Lotriet added if the motion came before the full House, the DA would propose an amendment recognising the role the agricultural sector played in the economy, that the future of the sector was dependent on the well-being of everyone in the sector and acknowledged that all farm workers should enjoy the respect and working conditions consistent with labour laws.

She also noted many farmers and farmers' organisations have expressed concern about the maltreatment of farmer workers.

IFP MP Xolani Ngwezi said the establishment of another ad hoc committee was not needed, adding the government had been slow in providing people with access to land, and land reform was "steeped in corruption".

FF Plus MP Tammy Breedt said most farmers treated their workers well, and they were reliant on each other, adding the proposed motion was "cheap politicking by a party out of touch with reality and its own voters".

She said recently, a transport company in Henley-on-Klip had to lay off 200 workers after people said to have worn EFF regalia set equipment alight.

Matiase said her allegation of the EFF starting "veld fires" was malicious, and EFF MP Natasha Ntlangwini referred to her as "this racist lady", which she had to withdraw.

"Farmers are not the enemy of workers, the EFF is the enemy of employment," said Breedt.

"We are coming for your farm, wena. We are coming for your farm," said Maotwe.

Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli reacted angrily, saying she "has no business making such a statement".

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone wanted Maotwe reported to the ethics committee.

DA MP Noko Masipa said there were no slaves on South African farms as more than 60% of farm workers were registered with the UIF and had written contracts, adding most worked 45 hour weeks.

NFP MP Munzoor Shaik-Emam, who supported the proposed motion, said Masipa "should come back to earth" and visit some farms in the Western Cape with him.

Skwatsha said the democratic government must do everything in its power to alleviate the plight of farm workers, adding it "must not further polarise our country".

He added criminality, whether perpetrated by farmers, farm workers or others, must be dealt with.

In response to the debate, Matiase accused the ANC of hypocrisy and cowardice.

"It is clear neither conscience or consciousness - which the ANC lacks - can save the farm workers from the psychosis of the delusional of this Parliament such as house n******s such as Mr Masipa and all those black people who rejected this draft bill [sic]," he said.

After an objection was raised, Ntlangwini said Matiase did not say it. 

Presiding officer and ANC MP Mina Lesoma said she did not hear the comment and would get back about it.

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