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Input by Hon MR Semenya, ANC MP on the debate on “The recent increase in farm murders and farm attacks and its impact on the farming community, food security and economic development” in the National Assembly

14 March 2017

While farm workers may not create jobs and not contribute much to the national revenue regarding taxes, they remain the backbone of the agricultural sector. They are the reason that it is possible for South Africa to be food secure at the national level and be a net exporter of some agricultural products. Therefore, they are also entitled to the basic human rights that are enshrined in Chapter 2 of our Constitution as much as the farm owners who feed the nation.

To address human rights violations in farming communities in a holistic manner needs strengthened coordination amongst and between government departments in all spheres of government, industry role players, farm worker representatives and non-governmental organisations.

Honourable members,

It must also be mentioned that central to this debate is our continued call for the strengthening of social cohesion to ensure that our nation achieves the values of a caring society, inspired by the traits of human compassion which informed our struggle against colonialism. Indeed, the need to build co-operation among all South Africans is a responsibility of all South Africans.

We also believe that social cohesion in a national democratic society also depend on the extent to which the rights of those in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder are protected. As such our society should proceed from the obvious premise that workers' rights are human rights; and these rights should find expression in law-governed measures to ensure decent jobs, job security and a living wage. Through legislation and other means, the state should manage the environment for fair and balanced relations between employers and employees. We also call our public media to play a critical role in promoting social cohesion.

There is also a need for additional research on the experiences of farm dwellers, farm workers and farm owners as has been recommended by the SAHRC in its 205 Report. It is emphasised that such research should be carried out by an independent, competent authority that has no interest in the matter and should be able also to highlight positive cases that can serve as examples for the rest of the farming communities. One positive example of good farm owner and farm worker relationship is the Solms-Delta Wine Estate in the Franschhoek area of the Western Cape. The efforts of the Solms and Astor families in developing their farm workers and incorporating them into the wine making business are thus applauded.

Ms. MR Semenya, MP
Chairperson: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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