Freedom remains a mirage, a pipe dream for many poor black people employed on South African farms.
Many continue to work and live under deplorable conditions. They work long hours for low pay, are abused by employers, ignored by unions, the violations of their rights ignored law enforcement agencies and government departments.
They live with the constant fear of eviction, dismissal and assault. Politicians and political parties remember them only at election time before disappearing back to the comfort of the cities and leave them in the dust and fear of the remote farming areas.
The International Labour Organisation recommended in a 2015 report into the working and living conditions of farmworkers that government facilitate the appointment of labour representatives on farms, provide or facilitate labour rights training to them and give them access to a regularly updated data basis of organisations that aid farmworkers.
In a report in August 2003 — titled Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in Farming Communities — the SA Human Rights Commission found that the state provided minimal legal assistance to farming communities in instances of the violation of rights against farm dwellers.
Although there are adequate laws, which are even-handed, “those who have resources use the law as a tool”.
The report also noted that farming communities are characterised by an acute lack of awareness of human rights, and a lack of training and education about rights and mechanisms to enforce rights. It also noted critically that there existed “skewed power dynamics between farm dwellers and farm owners”.
A follow-up report by the SAHRC in 2008 found that: “There remain incidences and pockets of serious human rights abuse where employers and persons in charge infringe the rights of workers and farm dwellers.”
Sadly while government has put in place regulations such as the minimum wage and structures such as the CCMA to protect the rights of workers, farm workers remain marginalised, abused and forgotten.
This collection of photographs form part of a project highlighting the working and living conditions of farm workers in post-apartheid South Africa by editor Lucas Ledwaba.