COSATU and PASSOP call on Minister Naledi Pandor to Give Amnesty to Immigrant Farmworkers and Caution Premier Zille

We are shocked by dangerous attempts by farm owners to divide workers and to provoke xenophobia in cheap attempts to divide workers. We call for a documentation amnesty, to avoid blood shed and mass displacement. We are also shocked by the irresponsible tweets and comments by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

We call on the Minister of Home Affairs to give amnesty from documentation requirements of workers in the area for the next 3 months.

We are shocked that the farm owners in De Doorns, who appear hell bent on discrediting and undermining the legitimate workers strike, have today made serious attempts to create anarchy, xenophobia and violent divisions among the community of workers. Farm owners and management have continuously made claims that non-workers were responsible for the strike and now they have proven that it is them, the farm owners, who are responsible for trying to create violent chaos.

Workers returned to work today, as part of an agreement made by stakeholders, government, representatives of both the farm workers and farm bosses, but they were met with hostility, abuse and many were turned away. Agreements to pay a minimum of R80 a day and not to take disciplinary actions against strikers were all ignored.

Of most concern farm bosses today openly resorted to targeting Sotho and South African workers, a move that appears to be part of a bigger plan to create tensions between Sotho, South Africans and Zimbabweans. As thousands of people returned to work farm bosses refused to accept Sotho and South African workers claiming falsely that they are not allowed to work without asylum seekers documents and others refused to accept workers claiming they had been fired.

We were shocked when the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, on twitter, openly blamed tensions between Sotho and Zimbabweans for the strike that swept across the Western Cape, starting in De Doorns. Another tweet by the premier claimed that certain immigrants were undocumented and she again stated that this was one of the causes of the strike; this all appears to be part of a calculated attempt to discredit the strike and/or possibly incite tensions between local immigrants and local labour. The premiers tweets can be seen beneath this statement.

We call on farm owners and labour brokers to stop seeking workers of particular nationalities when sourcing workers. We are also extremely concerned about reports of farmer owners wanting to only employ “coloured” workers in some areas (outside De Doorns).

We call upon the minister of home affairs to implement an amnesty for 3 months on documentation requirements of immigrants working in the area to avoid serious blood shed and tensions between different immigrants and South African workers. Now is too volatile a time to be implementing the immigration act and farm owners who have previously employed undocumented workers for years are now dividing workers using documentation as an excuse.

Such an amnesty is not unheard of, in 2009 when all the Zimbabweans were displaced in De Doorns the undocumented were not deported. Also in 2008 following the mass displacement of immigrants across South Africa the then minister of home affairs provided a temporary permit on application to displaced undocumented immigrants. Previously this was done instead of deporting them for humanitarian and moral reasons, we believe that such an amnesty should not occur only after mass displacement, but should be used to avoid mass displacement in this complex situation.

 

Statement on behalf of the following organisations:

 

For comment contact: Michael Louw on 082 339 5443 or Braam Hanekom on 084 319 1764

Premier Helen Zille’s tweets:

At 12:00 on the 8/11/12 “@helenzille: Complex dynamics in De Doorns. Lesotho seasonal workers no longer employed, but Zim workers legally employed due to amnesty. Huge tension.”

At 8:00am on the 16/11/12 “@helenzille: This was the spark in De Doorns. “@SiphoSimelane: Basotho farm workers are angry with Zimbabweans who get preferential treatment.”

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