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COSATU on the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche: `an enemy of democracy, a racist and a fascist'

By Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson

April 6, 2010 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) condemns the brutal murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche on April 3, 2010, and sends its condolences to his family. Murder and violent assaults can never be condoned, even against your worst enemy. His killing however highlights the following issues:

COSATU will remember Terre’Blanche as an enemy of democracy, a racist and a fascist. His Nazi AWB tried to sabotage our transition to majority rule, when they forced their way into the World Trade Centre when our democracy was being negotiated, and when they invaded Bophuthatswana to defend a hated Bantustan system our people had rejected [in 1994].

He was also typical of the worst type of employer on South Africa’s farms. The reported circumstances of his murder speak volumes about the appalling state of labour relations on farms.

The alleged killers were farm workers -- one of them 15 years old and therefore employed illegally -- demanding unpaid wages of a paltry R300 a month (US$40/Aus$45). While their alleged violent actions cannot be excused, they illustrate the depth of many farm workers’ frustration at their deplorable working conditions. We assume that these two young workers were so desperate that the only way they could see to get justice was to allegedly bludgeon their boss to death, an act we are condemning outright.

The police and courts must enforce the law in this case, but also revisit the numerous outstanding cases where farm workers and dwellers have been shot -- often under the blatantly false excuse that they were mistaken for dogs, baboons or warthogs -- had dogs set on them, been thrown into lions’ enclosures or evicted from the homes on to the roadside in the middle of winter.

Most farm workers have to work for wages way below the minimum laid down by the Sectoral Determination, often from dawn to sunset without any compensation, and frequently on public holidays and even polling days. They suffer racial insults, assaults, evictions and murders.

A survey of COSATU members in 2000 revealed that 25% of African workers said that their employer discriminated by race and one in seven said they had experienced racial abuse at work. That was a survey across all sectors, but there is abundant evidence that it is worst in the agricultural sector, where labour relations on many farms are still feudal, unchanged since the days of apartheid, with the employers predominantly white and the workers overwhelmingly black. A master and slave relationship continues. It is not uncommon for Department of Labour inspectors to be barred from entering farms. Only 3%-4% of workers are trade union members.

As numerous reports from COSATU’s North West provincial secretary Solly Phetoe confirm, the farmers are very often hand-in-glove with the local police, courts and government officials, who collude to let criminal farmers off the hook when they are charged with racist crimes. No such leniency is exercise when workers and the poor farm dwellers are charged with crimes.

In some areas the situation is aggravated by the employment and super-exploitation of immigrant workers, who are treated even worse, especially illegal immigrants who can be reported to the police if they do not toe the line. This in turn stokes resentment amongst other workers whose jobs are under threat.

No once have we seen COPE [Congress of the People party, a right-wing slpit off from the African national Congress] president Mosioua Lekota in any of the farm workers’ marches to demand justice for the victims of these racist and violent killings and assaults. He has never been at any funeral of these victims or visited the grieving parents of victims of these widespread acts of violence. Yet he found time to visit Terre’Blanche’s farm.

One of the ANC’s top priority areas is land reform and rural development. It must now be the ANC and government’s top priority to transform the lives of the farm workers and dwellers, by vigorously enforcing the labour laws on the farms, helping COSATU and its affiliate Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) to recruit and organise farm workers and to speed up the very slow process of land redistribution.

COSATU and government are organising provincial farm workers’ summits over the coming weeks, leading up to a national summit later in the year. The issues are how to enable farm workers to enjoy the fruits of democracy and laws that protect their rights, and to rescue them from the racist slavery under which most of them suffer at the present time.

Congress of South African Trade Unions

1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019
Johannesburg, 2000
South Africa

Attacks against farm workers and their families

By Solly Phetoe, COSATU North West Province secretary

April 7, 2010 -- The Congress of South African Trade Union and its affiliates are strongly disturbed at the program of racial attacks led by farmers. It is really disappointing to continue to get public statements of denialism of brutal racial assaults and killings. Poor farm workers and their families are mauled by lions and nothing happens. Farmers in the North West are used to assaulting and killing workers by assaulting, and then alleging that workers were stealing; and they are being supported by police.

The killing of the AWB leader is one of cruelest things that has happened in the province. But more than a hundred farm workers and their families are brutally assaulted and killed almost every week, every month.
On April 6, 2010, at Lichtenburg a farmer called Van Rensburg assaulted six of his farm workers. When we exposed them they called us racists. The same farmer was not arrested until COSATU intervened. This is due to the relationships of farmers, the police and the Department of Justice. When workers report their case they are turned back.

COSATU North West will not keep quiet, will not be intimidated, victimised or threatened by the Democratic Alliance [South Africa's main opposition party, composed of former the white parties under apartheid] leaders, Congress of the People [right-wing split from the ANC] or Agri-NW [provincial agriculture department]. We shall continue to expose all those cases of racial assault and killings against farm workers and their families.

COSATU demands that the provincial commissioner release all statistics of cases of assault and killing of farm workers that were reported to the police in the North West Province.

The Department of Justice is called on also to release details of cases that are in court and tell the public why there is no prosecution on almost all cases that involved white farmers, and why some of the cases are dragging on for more that two years in court without prosecution or trial, for example:
Johan Nel in Lichtenburg killed a young boy in October 2008.

  • Farmers in Swartruggens assaulted and killed farm workers, but the cases were withdrawn even before the could appear in court.
  • Farm workers and their families were mauled by lions in 2005, 2007 and 2008, but these cases are still in the roll. Others were withdrawn without informing the families. The Department of Agriculture replaced the life of a human being with R60,000, e.g. Tshepo Gaorupi in Tosca killed by nine lions the case was withdrawn.
  • A farm worker was killed in Bosdam in June 2009, until now no postmortem result, no trial, no arrest.

Workers are killed, evicted and everybody is quiet, including our provincial and national government. Farm workers have not enjoyed the 1994 breakthrough or the democratic process. Therefore COSATU demands that the government or politicians must not take sides. We must all take responsibility of what has happened both in the killing all farm workers and farmers.

COSATU demands full safety for all farm workers in the province, in 2008, 2009 COSATU demanded unity in government to deal with this critical issue, in 2010 we submit that we must establish a provincial task team with all stakeholders. Agric-NW refused and government agreed with progress.
Cases were reported in the following areas:

  • Wolmaranstad
  • Lichtenburg
  • Brits/Madibeng
  • Swartruggens
  • Ventersdorp
  • Koster
  • Schweizer-Reneke
  • Bloemhof
  • Chistian
  • Ganyesa
  • Stella
  • Zeerust
  • Tigane

In all these areas there are brutal assaults, killings and human rights abuse cases that have been reported by workers.

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