Zim, SA plan farm workers’ portal

Nicholas Goche, Zimbabwean minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said that the labour recruitment centre could help Zimbabweans who are crossing into South Africa illegally seeking jobs on farms but however end up being exploited.

Goche, who was in Namibia on a week-long visit said that his ministry has since held a meeting with the South African government and commercial farmers from that country, who have expressed interest in regularising the movement and employment of Zimbabwean farm workers, who are much sought after in South Africa.

The move is aimed at making jobless Zimbabweans risking their lives by crossing the crocodile infested Limpopo River in search of mostly farm employment in neighbouring South Africa do so legally.

More importantly, Goche said, the legal recruitment centre would make sure that Zimbabweans across the borders are paid the normal wages, according to South African laws, and are not abused in any way.

Conservative estimates say that hundreds of Zimbabweans cross into South Africa every week in search of elusive green pastures.

Most of those who do so illegally, Goche said, end up working on farms and are in most cases ill-treated.

Goche revealed to The Southern Times that quite a number of South African commercial farmers had expressed interest in recruiting Zimbabwean labour and are willing to do so legally.

South Africa, with one of the strongest agricultural sectors in the region is suffering from acute shortages of both technical and general labour amid reports locals shun farm work.

Goche said the Zimbabwean cabinet would soon make recommendations and give its approval for the establishment of the labour centre.

“That aspect, once it is approved, would make sure that people who are going to work for South African commercial farmers have the protection of the law,” Goche said.

This would also ensure that Zimbabwean farm workers employed under this system would be able to visit and look after their families back home.

He said that some of Zimbabwean farm workers were not willing to work for the new black farmers in Zimbabwe, who got land under the land reform.

“Commercial farmers in South Africa want Zimbabwean farm labourers because they work hard and we must find a mechanism whereby we establish a legal recruitment centre for Zimbabwean farm labourers so we are setting up a recruitment centre in Beitbridge,” Goche said.

He said that South African farmers could come to Beitbridge and recruit Zimbabweans, who would cross the border within the proper legal channels.

“Currently they (Zimbabweans) are being exploited, they cross to South Africa illegally, work on farms and at the end of the day they do not get paid. Most of them are deported before they are even paid. There are so many cases of exploitation of Zimbabwean labourers,” Goche explained.

“Those farmers from South Africa who want Zimbabwean labour can go to Beitbridge labour centre and they can recruit properly and those people who are recruited are given legal documents to go and work in that country,” he added.

Goche said although there is a set minimum wage for farm workers in Zimbabwe, working conditions differed from farm to farm.

He said that some of the farm workers who were working for white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe before the land reform programme did not want to work for the new breed of commercial farmers in the vain hope that the white farmers will re-occupy the farms.

Some of the farm workers however managed to get land for themselves, and these were doing well, Goche said.

October 2006
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