National Assembly rejects EFF's motion, adopts one recognising efforts of farmers and farm workers

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A field of sunflowers near Bloemfontein. (Getty)
A field of sunflowers near Bloemfontein. (Getty)
  • The National Assembly rejected the EFF's "divisive" motion to establish an ad hoc committee to investigate the plight of farm workers and farm dwellers.
  • Instead, an ANC amendment to the motion was passed, which notes "individual and collective efforts of farm workers, farm dwellers and farmers and the role played by the farming sector in seeking solutions".
  • Two parliamentary committees will review the relative legislation, conduct public hearings and report back to the House by the end of next year.

The National Assembly adopted a motion on Tuesday that recognises the role of farm workers, farm dwellers and farmers in the agricultural sector, but also that the sector is faced by many challenges, as proposed by the ANC.

Originally, it was a motion proposed by the EFF, which was debated last week in a heated mini-plenary of the National Assembly

The EFF's motion was condemned as divisive, and ill-advised as there are already portfolio committees dealing with these matters.

EFF MP Sam Matiase, who proposed the motion, said the black MPs who did not support it were "house n*****s".

On Tuesday, the motion was put to the full National Assembly, with the ANC and DA proposing amendments which replaced the whole EFF motion.

ANC MP Judith Tshabalala presented her party's motion to the House.

It acknowledged the "policy and legislative progress" made by the government to improve relations between farm workers, farm dwellers and farmers and noted that despite this progress, challenges remained.

She said despite the progress made since 1994, farmers, farm workers and farm dwellers were faced by persistent crime, violence, human rights violations and inadequate housing and water provision.

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

Tshabalala also noted the "individual and collective efforts of farm workers, farm dwellers and farmers and the role played by the farming sector in seeking solutions", while strained relations continued in some parts of the country.

She proposed that the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform and the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour review the legislation, with an eye on improvements and conducting public hearings, to report back to the House by 31 November 2021.

The DA's motion, read by chief whip Natasha Mazzone but proposed by MP Annelie Lotriet, acknowledged that the agricultural sector - and all those involved in it - played a critical role in the well-being of every citizen.

The DA proposed an amendment:

  • recognising the role of the agricultural sector in the economy;
  • recognising that the future of the sector is dependent on the wellbeing of everyone in the sector;
  • acknowledging that all farmworkers should enjoy the respect and working conditions consistent with labour laws note; and
  • noting that many farmers and farmer's organisations have expressed their concern about the maltreatment of farmer workers.

Matiase's proposed motion noted that farm workers and farm dwellers were amongst the most vulnerable group of people in the 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."

The motion "further acknowledges that it is also common practice among 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".

The EFF 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 conduct public hearings with all interested and affected parties, including farm workers themselves, unions organising on farms and civil society organisations.

The DA's amendment were not approved, but the ANC's amendment was, and the motion was passed as such.

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