Philippi farmworkers’ living conditions deteriorate

GroundUp writes that Fransina Sauls has been living and working on the Bock family farm in the Philippi Horticultural Area in Cape Town for nearly a decade.  The building she and her family share with several families is falling apart, but the Bock family says they can do nothing as they are battling just to keep the vegetable and pig farm going.  Sauls’ room is a tiny, dark space big enough to fit a single bed, with cracked walls and plastic sheeting on the broken roof.  Part of the structure’s walls have caved in and is still charred from a fire that gutted one of the rooms a few years ago.  The area around the building, which once housed the farm’s workers, now resembles a rubbish dump.  There are two pit toilets on the property for workers, but they fill up regularly and are dangerous for young children.  

Sauls earns R300 per week and battles to make ends meet after deductions from her weekly wages for electricity, water and UIF.  Community activist Rodney Khan said the conditions on the Bock family’s farm were not unusual in the horticultural farming area.  “These people are hidden from the public eye, so many people don’t know how the workers and farm dwellers here live,” he said.  According to Khan, workers in the area were not being paid the minimum wage, many farm dwellers did not have IDs, and growing unemployment in the community often meant an increase in crime and drug and alcohol abuse.  “These people have been forgotten and neglected by government and organisations who are meant to fight for farmworkers’ rights.  No one has come onto these farms to offer assistance,” he lamented.  

by Barbara Maregele

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