Groblersdal, Marble Hall farm workers suffer ongoing abuse

Many female farm labourers in the racially divided agricultural sector of Limpopo claim they are the targets of ongoing abuse at work, especially in the neighbourhoods of Groblersdal and Marble Hall in the Sekhukhune region.

One of the upset women claims that her life has been an agonising nightmare ever since she was wounded in the eye by a rubber bullet while working as a farm worker.

Francina Maluleke claims that at a protest called by female workers on Sekhukhune farms, violence broke out, leaving her shot with a rubber bullet and her coworker Portia Mokgabudi run over.

Their lives have been turned upside down ever since.

Even though the incident occurred two years ago, the two women claim that prejudice in Groblersdal and Marble Hall’s farming communities has reached very high levels.

Maluleke was a member of a group of demonstrators who had assembled to call for the implementation of a minimum wage and other fundamental rights for farmworkers.

Then shot rang during the standoff between the workers and their bosses, with one rubber bullet hitting Maluleke in the face.

In the midst of the confusion, Mokgabudi was run over by a 4×4 bakkie allegedly driven by one of the farmers. Maluleke was only inches away from losing her right eye when the rubber bullet struck her forehead.

A minimum salary of R4,200 per month, payment of salaries into individual bank accounts, registration with the department of labour, and benefits for on-the-job injuries were among the demands made by the protestors.

Maluleke, who worked as an orange harvester and packer, claimed that her injuries have left her with excruciating migraines and short-sightedness.

“I heard gunshots while I was at the back amid a throng of demonstrators. As we fled in various directions, there was a disturbance.

“The world went fuzzy when a rubber bullet struck right over my eye,” Maluleke said as she recalled the events of the day.

“I was unable to flee, but eventually I was taken by ambulance to the Groblersdal hospital, where I received medical attention. I still have pain and trouble seeing well.”

Maluleke added that she filed an attempted murder case at the Marble Hall police station, but no arrests have been made.

Meanwhile, Portia Mokgabudi said she was heading towards her employer’s gate when a fast-moving car got close to her.

She attempted to flee, but it was too late, she told Sunday World. “The driver of a massive bakkie ran over my leg and sped off.”

Nando Molapo, also an agricultural labourer in the area, claimed farmers are treating them inhumanely.

Molapo remarked: “They are kicking us in the backsides and swearing at us, and when we complain, they tell us to go work for Mandela.

Farm workers’ representative Sydney Bebeile said: “Employers here never bother to register their employees with the department of labour.”

“There is nothing left for those who have retired.”

A farmer known only as “Baas Dries”, has accused his employees of being “lazy and politicising everything”.

“These folks believe that democracy implies they have to get paid for doing nothing,” he remarked.

“The farm is not a political rally; it is a place of employment.”

Farm workers should report any abuse to the police or human rights advocacy groups, according to Victor Mavhidula of the South African Human Rights Commission in Limpopo.

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