The statement below was issued by the Democratic Left Front(DLF) , a united movement of trade unions, community organisations and political formations in South Africa , formed to resist the policies of neoliberalism of the ANC-led government. The statement deals with the ground-breaking strike of the farm workers of the Western Cape.
The immediate strike demand is for Rand 150(£12) a day but this is more than a strike for higher wages. The farm workers are demanding an end to the feudal relations that exist on the land and the redistribution of the land. Following soon after the strikes of the mine workers in the platinum, gold and coal mines, these strikes represent a big challenge to the bosses and the ANC-led government. In spite of physical assaults and workers being killed, they refused to be intimidated and elected workers committees to run the strike.
The land reform policy of the government is a failure. The brutal regime that the farm workers have to endure is a denial of the democratic rights guaranteed under the constitution drawn up following the first democratic elections in 1994. The government adopts more repressive measures against the masses as their resistance increases.
The mine workers and farm workers are appealing for solidarity in their struggle against the bosses and the ANC-led government. Send cheques to Socialist Resistance at PO Box 62732 London SW2 9GQ marked South Africa Solidarity or make a bank transfer to 08-02-28 70186297 and email firstname.lastname@example.org to say you have done so.
The Democratic Left Front (DLF) salutes farm workers for their historic stand against exploitation and calls on progressive forces to intensify efforts to organise, mobilise and advance the struggle for R150per day. The struggle of the Western Cape farm workers is not only against starvation wages but the system of baasskap oppression that has remained since Apartheid.
This has been more than a strike, it has been a popular rebellion and the demand for R150 per day is symbolic of a greater struggle to transform the rural countryside and for radical agrarian transformation including redistribution of land.
The strike represents a huge step forward in the morale, confidence, organisation and spirit of farm workers and farm dwellers.
The strike on the farms, like the mines before, reflects a growing preparedness of the working class of South Africa to challenge the system of profit, low wages and economic apartheid.
Organising amongst farm workers is a herculean task. Farms are separated by great distances and owners prevent unionists from gaining access to workers. They threaten those that take a stand with physical violence, eviction and legal harassment. There is total disregard for labour regulations and the constitutional right to organise. Famers use labour brokers and casualisation to weaken the power of workers. The police have colluded in this – arresting and brutalising worker leaders and closing roads to prevent the free movement of organisers.
Despite these obstacles farm workers have mobilised, blocked national roads and shut down production in a number of areas – in defiance of the police who have responded with excessive brutality. Three workers have now been killed. The responsibility for the violence lies at the police’s feet. Some of our activists have been denied the due process of the law and remain in jail. Several activists, local leaders from Mawubuye and CSAAWU have been detained since 9th January.
Throughout these three months of protests and strikes, commercial farmers have remained intransigent and arrogant refusing to engage with the unions and farm workers committees. This is an indication of the complete lack of transformation in the countryside. It is clear that apartheid is alive and well in many parts of South Africa.
The strike over the last three months is all the more remarkable because of this. But the struggle is not over. The farmers claim they cannot affordR150 per day. In fact, most can and must pay now. The desire for high profits cannot be used to deny decent wages. If farms cannot pay they must be expropriated and placed under workers control.
The government has failed outright to deliver on land reform. They have made no effort to assist workers and have provided cover for the farmer’s intransigence. A government that served the poor and exploited would institute immediate radical agrarian transformation. It would redistribute land and provide assistance to farm workers and small farmers to create an agricultural system based on human need, food security and ecological sustainability instead of profit maximisation.
It would end disastrous liberalisation and deregulation policies, provide subsidies to small farmers and curtail the monopoly power of retailers that are appropriating most of value in the sector.
The DLF demands, at the very least, that the government institute a minimum wage of R150 at its sectoral determination in March and take measures to enforce the labour law on farms!
The DLF demands an investigation into all acts of police brutality; we demandthe demilitarisation of the police! We demand the immediate, unconditional release of all workers and the dropping of charges! Legitimate struggles are being criminalised.
Finally, the DLF also demands the right of farm workers to mobilise themselves, join unions and political organisations of their choice without victimisation. We commit to continuing the struggle for radical agrarian transformation that prioritises food sovereignty over profits.