South Africa: Labour Department to Probe ‘Poor Conditions’ On Cape Farm


Workers are demanding running water, lower electricity rates and improved housing

The Department of Labour will return to a farm near Kraaifontein and Stellenbosch soon to investigate claims by workers.

The workers are accusing the owner of hiking their electricity rates, not providing running water and failing to renovate their dilapidated houses.

This is the second time the department will be investigating the farm. In 2019 it issued the owner with an order to resolve a number of issues.

The farm’s owner has disputed workers’ claims and says he is doing what he can to assist.

Farm workers from Thiangara, a vegetable farm bordering Kraaifontein and Stellenbosch, are accusing the owner of hiking their electricity rates, not providing running water and failing to renovate their dilapidated houses.

The workers, supported by activists at Women on Farms Project (WFP), picketed outside the farm’s gates earlier this month.

This is not the first time workers have complained about the conditions on Thiangara. In 2019, the Western Cape Chief Inspector David Esau was called to inspect the farm.

On Friday, Esau told GroundUp that after his last visit, he ordered the owner to rectify various issues such as the lack of ablution facilities, not paying for sick or family responsibility leave, and work on public holidays. He also told the owner to provide the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to the farm workers.

Esau said that the owner provided proof of compliance and a follow-up inspection was done. The compliance order was then withdrawn.

But Esau said that in light of the worker’s recent protest, the Department will visit the farm again.

One of the main issues workers raised was being overcharged for electricity. They had been paying R200 for 50 units every week since 2017 until it was recently increased to R250.

Louisa Warries, a worker on the farm, said they earn about R970 per week and the electricity is deducted from their weekly wages.

“We want him to pay back our electricity money,” said Warries. She also complained that the workers had to spray pesticides on the vegetables without being given PPE.

Colette Solomon, director at WFP, said that the “unilateral rate setting of electricity” on farms by owners was a common problem. “Farmers can literally set the rate at anything they want to per unit, and that’s what they’re doing,” she said.