Democratic Left Front: press statement, 15/11/2012
SUPPORT THE FARMWORKERS STRIKE!
FOR A NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE OF R150 A DAY!
With the support of the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers' Union (CSAAWU) and of Mawibuye, the Democratic Left Front rejects the declaration by COSATU yesterday of a suspension of the farmworkers' strike for two weeks, but continues to support the call for a one-day general strike in two weeks time. It is clearly evident that the farmworkers have rejected the call to suspend the strike and the call reflected inadequate consultation with the strike committees. Moreover the police have now shot and killed at least one person -- Michael Daniels, a 28 year old farm worker – and possibly three in Wolseley. This continued brutality by the police is intolerable, and only reinforces the determination of the farmworkers to prolong the strike, and to win their demand of R150 a day minimum wage and improved living and working conditions. We call on COSATU, to avoid spreading confusion, to withdraw its declaration that the strike is suspended for two weeks.
Farm workers do backbreaking work to produce food and drink for everybody in this country and many overseas, yet they are forced to work under unsafe and unhealthy conditions, to drink dirty water, live without electricity, live with poor toilet facilities, on poverty wages, suffering threats of evictions, and violent physical and verbal abuse and intimidation at the hands of the bosses. Workers in De Doorns earn R69 a day, of which, scandalously, R30 is deducted by their bosses for electricity, etc.
CSAAWU’s joint Speak-Out Campaign, with Mawubuye, TCOE and the DLF, aims to bring an end to the oppression and exploitation of farm workers and farm dwellers by coming together to build solidarity, strength and hope amongst the rural working class. Workers have been intimidated and threatened when they try to build organization and when they speak out against abuses. Workers are dismissed, evicted, denied electricity and water and verbally and physically abused when they want to be together. Five worker leaders have been victimized by suspension on Leeuwenkuil farm in Agter-Paarl for this.
Now farm workers have had enough! They have said they cannot accept being treated as little more than animals, being used to enrich a small elite of farmers who live in luxury, feeding off the continued exploitation and impoverishment of the workers and the rural communities in which they live. They can no longer accept being largely ignored by the very government that is supposed to ensure all workers receive a living wage and are treated with respect and dignity. Workers have no trust in an industrial relations system which had failed them thus far, merely keeping them in continued wage slavery. Enough is enough!
The strike, which began in De Doorns, has spread to Paarl, Riebeeck West, Malmesbury, Moorreesberg, Ceres, Prince Alfred Hamlet, Saron and Citrusdal to the west and north and to Worcester, Robertson, Ashton and Bonnievale to the east and south. The demands may vary from area to area, but a general demand is for a minimum wage of R150 a day and improved living and working conditions. Workers are showing that it is only by their own efforts and self-organisation that reforms can be won and society transformed.
On 13 November CSSAWU, in a coalition with the De Doorns Workers Committee, COSATU, Sikhula Sonke Trade Union, the Black Agricultural, Wine and Spirits Initiative (BAWSI), the Black Agricultural workers Union of South Africa, Mawubuye Land Rights Forum, Women on Farms Project, Trust for Community Outreach and Education, Surplus People’s Project and Food Sovereignty Campaign, met with the Minister of Agriculture, Ms Tina Joemat-Petersen. We explained that the workers wanted not less than R150 a day. This was in response to Ms Joemat-Petersen's speech to farmworkers in De Doorns when she supported the farmers paltry offer of R80 -- which was an insult to the dignity of workers and their families swimming in a sea of poverty.
In more than 18 years, the ANC in government, either nationally or provincially, has done little or nothing to alleviate poverty among farmworkers in the Western Cape. The DA is no better. It has supported the farmers. Now Zille is asking Zuma to call the army in! The workers were right to refuse her a hearing. A few days ago provincial ANC chair Marius Fransman spoke to the farmworkers -- rather than dealing with the issues he launched a political attack on DA leader Helen Zille for going to Nkandla. Playing politics again instead of attending to peoples needs. And covering up for the exorbitant spending of R248 million of public money on the personal residence of President Zuma.
CSAAWU has called for a R4500 a month minimum wage for farmworkers. We now demand, as a start, that the government increase the minimum wage on the farms to R150 a day. We reject the farmers' position that negotiations should take place farm by farm. This is an attempt to divide and isolate workers who have come together. The coalition told the minister we would refuse to negotiate any more on behalf of the workers until this was done. The workers will continue to press for this demand. De Doorns workers, who have already struck for two weeks, will suffer most but are prepared to continue to the end. They particularly need support with donations of food and money.
Agri-South Africa's claim that there is "no crisis" on the farms is absurd, even from their own point of view. There is a crisis of extreme poverty, sometimes starvation -- which is the responsibility of the inhumanity of Agri-SA. We reject the DA's claim that these strikes are "politically motivated". They are motivated by people's needs for an acceptable life. They are self-organised, from below, like the strike of mineworkers, of which the epicenter is Anglo Platinum in Rustenburg. This is the sense in which Marikana has come to the Western Cape.
We call on Mildred Oliphant, Minister of Labour, to intervene and urgently declare a national minimum wage for farmworkers of R150 a day. We call on Gugile Nkwinti, the Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform, to step in also. He is responsible for rural development, yet his department sorely neglects the interests of oppressed farmworkers.
Police brutality will not stop the strike. Nor will farmers' violence. Workers' lives must be respected. We call on the Minister of Police to resign because his police now have another death, that of Michael Daniels, on their hands -- following the 34 dead on August 16 in the Marikana massacre, Andries Tatane, and countless others. Police activity must be reined in by the government, with no use of live ammunition, rubber bullets etc against workers demonstrating for the means of survival.
Should the government not respond, the Democratic Left Front will support the call by the coalition for a 1-day general strike to demand a R150 legislated national minimum wage for farmworkers, and improved working and living conditions on the farms. We call on all the farmworkers' strike committees, meanwhile, to spread the strike. We also call on the strike committees of mineworkers to support the farmworkers demands and organize for this general strike.
Together with the strike committees, with CSAAWU, with Mawibuye and with all other coalition members willing to support it, the Democratic Left Front is calling a mass rally of farmworkers at the Sports Stadium, Nkqubela, Robertson at 11am on Saturday 24 November. We call on all progressive forces to mobilize for this rally and to make donations for transport, banners, T-shirts etc.
FORWARD TO R150 A DAY FOR FARMWORKERS!
STOP VICTIMISATION OF FARM WORKERS!
FORWARD TO R12, 500 MINIMUM WAGE FOR MINEWORKERS AND FOR ALL WORKERS!
FOR UNITY OF MINEWORKERS AND FARMWORKERS!
FORWARD TO A ONE-DAY GENERAL STRIKE!
DOWN WITH CAPITALISM!
FORWARD TO SOCIALISM!