Farm workers had no safe drinking water, investigation finds

By Kaveel Singh, originally posted on November 17, 2016


Cape Town – An investigation into working conditions on Western Cape farms has revealed that at one farm, workers had no access to safe drinking water, Economic Development MEC Alan Winde said on Thursday.

“This investigation has brought clear evidence to light that there are employees in our economy who receive very poor treatment. This was never ever acceptable, and it still isn’t. It will not be tolerated,” he said.

The investigation follows allegations raised in a documentary focused on the working conditions of South African farm workers on wine farms.

Some supermarkets in Europe allegedly removed South African wines from their shelves following screenings of the documentary, “Bitter Grapes – Slavery in the Vineyards,” which was produced by Danish filmmaker Tom Heinemann.

 The film depicts widespread violations of labour laws including below-minimum wages for 12-hour shifts.

Winde said he was briefed on the investigation’s findings on Thursday when members of his department met with others from the Department of Labour as well as from wine and agriculture organisations.

Winde said the Western Cape Government assisted in the investigation and welcomed the issuing of contravention notices to farmers.

He said the law gave farmers 60 days to take corrective action and 14 days to rectify the most critical failures.

Winde said he was particularly concerned with contraventions found at one farm, where workers did not have access to safe drinking water, and where housing was not of an acceptable standard.

“While we acknowledge that the farmer has 14 days to deal with these concerns, I have instructed the Farm Worker Support unit within the Western Cape Department of Agriculture to assist in improving this situation urgently.”

Winde said he would be engaging with organised agriculture.

“We will take a hard line against these acts, and root out offenders. We cannot allow unethical operations at some farms to put people’s well-being and an entire industry, which employs over 200 000 people, in jeopardy.”

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