There are about two-million farm workers in South Africa. Farm workers are the poorest workers in South Africa.
Many farm workers hate their jobs. But they can’t leave. They can’t find other jobs. There are not enough jobs for all farm workers. Thousands of farm workers have no jobs.
Thousands of farm workers have no jobs because farmers buy machines. One machine can do the job of many farm workers. Now farmers do not need so many workers. Because there are so many workers, farmers can pay low wages.
Some people at the University of the Witwatersrand have made a study on farm workers in South Africa. They say: “Farm workers are poorer than before. Farm workers get less money now than they got 20 years ago”.
“Many farm workers get R 12 a month, “says Mr Eugene Roelofse. He tries to help farm workers.
Mr Roelofse says: “Women workers get less money than men. Some women get R9 a month.
“Many children also work on farms. They must work because their parents are poor. The children work long hours. They are paid very little. Most children only get R7 a month.”
There is nothing farm workers can do. They can’t get other jobs. Farm workers get “farmworker” stamped in their pass books. After their pass books are stamped, they can only work on farms. They can’t go to towns to find jobs.
Black farm workers can’t farm for themselves in most parts of South Africa. They can only farm for themselves in the “homelands”. But there is not enough land for them in the homelands.
There are no laws to protect farmworkers.
No law says how much farm workers must earn. A farmer can pay the workers anything he likes.
No law says how farmers must treat their workers. The farmer can do what he likes with his workers.
And the law says farm workers can not start trade unions. They can’t start a trade union to fight for a better life.
“I work on a farm”
“My name is John Maluleka. I am a farm worker. I work on a farm near Bethal in the Transvaal. On the farm we grow potatoes. The farmer also has a lot of cows. He sells the milk from the cows.
“I have a wife and four children. My wife and I work in the fields. Two of my children also work in the fields. They work to help me. I am poor so they can’t go to school.
“My other children go to school. They go to a school on another farm. The school is far away. The children leave the house early in the morning. And they come home late in the afternoon.
“Our work is hard. We start work when the sun comes up. And we finish work when the sun goes down. We work six days a week. On Sundays we don’t work.
“The pay is not good. I get R22 a month. My wife gets R17 a month. My children get R8 a month each. The farmer gives us a bag of mealie meal every month. Sometimes he gives us some milk.
“We live with many other families. We live together in a compound on the farm. Our house is very small. There are two rooms. There is no ceiling in the house. And the floor is made of cement. In the summer the house is very hot. In the winter the house is very cold.
“There is little water. All the people in the compound share one tap. The tap is far away from the compound. And there is only one toilet. The toilet is a hole in the ground.
“I want to go to work in eGoli. There is more money there. But I am not allowed. My pass says I must stay on the farm. I can do nothing.”
Life is hard for Mr John Maluleka and his family. But life is hard for most farmworkers.