On the 7th of September 2019, Africa Unite in partnership with Jesuits South Africa held a community dialogue in the small farming community of De Doorns at Nomthandazo Creche.
The dialogue was attended by community leaders, farmworkers, the youth and foreign nationals. De Doorns is under Breede Valley district municipality and it is 139 km away from Cape Town City. It is the centre of export grape growing region surrounded by over 200 table grape farms, and therefore the main source of income of the community is farming.
The farmworkers who form part of the community are drawn from the coloured, IsiXhosa speaking people, foreign nationals mainly from Lesotho and Zimbabwe. In the past, the area has had several protests by the farmworkers for wages and working conditions which was followed by looting of shops owned by foreign nationals.
The purpose of the youth-led dialogue was to get insight into the issues of the community and recommendations that can be used to address the challenges faced by this community. This dialogue is part of our community conflict mediation process, which is based on building the grassroots capacity of a community in conflict, building tolerance and inclusive communities. Furthermore, this dialogue took place at the backdrop of the current Gender-Based Violence, Xenophobic Attacks and looting against foreign nationals in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Richards bay which has so far claimed 12 reported deaths.
Our youth human rights peer educators already conducted numerous human rights information sessions in the area followed by a community assessment.
During the dialogue, the community raised several issues of concern.
Below are their concerns according to different categories and some of the proposed solutions:
HEALTH ISSUES: Most of the people recognised that the clinic environment is not friendly especially if you are not Afrikaans speaking. There is one doctor who treats all the community members who often does not run medical tests to diagnose patients instead, he diagnoses patients by looking at them and informs them to go back to work. To complicate matters, the nurses call the patients according to their sickness or chronic illnesses in front of everyone.
- a community member present who is already part of the concerned group will have a meeting with the clinic management on Monday, 9th of September 2019. Based on the outcome of the meeting she will report to the current structures so that further engagement can commence with various stakeholders.
- The community must set up a community health forum to monitor and address community challenges with the clinic
LABOUR ISSUES: The recruitment process is based on the supervisor’s nationality, race or group e.g. If the supervisor is from Zimbabwe, he will only recruit workers from Zimbabwe or if it’s a coloured person who is the supervisor, they will only recruit workers from the coloured community etc. A person who is not part of the community of the supervisor will then need to bribe the supervisor to be able to get work. This issue has previously created serious unrest in the community.
Majority of the farmworkers do not know their rights and there is no labour union in the area. The farm owners take UIF from the migrant workers which they know they will never claim it.
- Africa Unite will liaise with Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) to bring Commercial Stevedore Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) so that they can start to work with farmworkers in the area. Furthermore, Africa Unite will also liaise with Women on Farm.
- Africa Unite will intensify its work on human rights awareness in the area with different groups.
- The current department of labour office in the area is inactive, Africa Unite needs to explore how to engage with the different stakeholders.
- Africa Unite needs to follow up with Deputy Minister of Land and Rural Development as per last engagement with the community which he had with the community of De Doorns.
YOUTH ISSUES: If a child turns the age of 18, he/ she is asked to leave the farm. However, if they want to remain they are obliged to work on the farm. On choosing to stay they are required to pay rent the same as their parents. A young person who chooses to leave then has to find their own material to build a shack for him/ herself outside the farm. The consequences of this are that these young people are then exposed to numerous social ills such as teenage pregnancy, crime and substance abuse. However, it is important to note that 70% of the community is comprised of young people. There are no job opportunities and farming remains their only option. Furthermore, there is a lack of infrastructure for young people to carry out any other activities.
- This structure must engage the relevant authorities at the municipality to explore ideas of building a Youth centre in the area.
- Africa Unite needs to continue with human rights education with the Youth in De Doorns
- This forum must explore the possibility of establishing a strong youth forum elected from the grassroots.
- Africa Unite needs to extend its parenting skills workshops with the parents of the youth.
- The community needs to liaise with the councillor so that he can use his authority to look at ways to engage with Shebeen owners about the time to open and close their shebeens.
- This forum must engage other stakeholders to establish a community policing forum.
SERVICE DELIVERY: Community members do not know the role of the ward councillor and the councillor is always unavailable therefore community seem not to know what the ward councillor is busy doing. During different protests, the community always turn their anger in looting foreign nationals owned shops.
- The community need to be taught socio-political navigation to understand the roles of the local government structures.
- Africa Unite needs to continue its work of human rights especially on the rights of migrants and refugees
COMMUNITY RELATIONS: although the different groups are living in one community, there is no social interaction amongst them. Furthermore, there was a complaint from the community that foreign nationals within the community often isolates themselves from the rest of the community. The migrant community is not well organised to ensure that they are able to interact with the rest of the community stakeholders.
- Foreign nationals need to be motivated so that they can actively be part of the community
- In order to build relations among the different groups, the community must identify common activities they can do together such as sporting and cultural activities etc.
- The migrant community must organise themselves into an organised structure
Everyone present was thankful for the dialogue, the former counsellor said that this dialogue comes at the right time where the country is in crisis and it also opens a way of following up on the previous engagement with different stakeholders that was held during the last farmworker’s strike.
In order to follow up on the above issues and proposed solutions raised, an interim committee of seven people was formed to work closely with Africa Unite.