South Africa: Women farm workers say ‘no justice, no vote’ (Inter Press Service)

| April 20, 2009

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When Diane Hlathe reaches to harvest fruit, she sometimes feels the pain of arthritis. But she also feels the sting of injustice.

Ms. Hlathe works on a farm in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. According to Ms. Lathe, farm owners get rich while farm workers get survival wages. And women farm workers make less than men. Ms. Hlathe’s wage does not cover her medical costs.

She wants the government to step in and correct this injustice. If the government doesn’t act, Ms. Hlathe says she won’t vote in this Wednesday’s presidential election.

Three weeks ago, women farm workers from three Cape provinces marched to the national parliament. Waving placards, they denounced the unequal treatment of women in agriculture – unequal payment for their work and unequal access to redistributed land.

Isa Jacobs is an organizer for the farm worker rights organization, Sikhula Sonke. She says local and national governments have rejected their appeals for better access to land.

Ms. Jacobs declares that women farm workers are not going to vote because the government has turned its back on them.

Maria Pieterson was one of the farm workers waving a placard in protest. She has been trying to obtain land through the redistribution program. According to her, local government has only stood in the way. She says this struggle is not only for her, but also for her children’s future.

The African National Congress was elected in 1994 with a promise to restore illegally expropriated land to black farmers. So far, only about five per cent of agricultural land has been transferred.