Black Farmers Abuse and Exploit Their Workers

Residents of Ozohambo, a shanty town on the outskirts of Otjinene, are embittered that farmers in the area hire them for hard labour, but after they complete the work they are sent away without pay.

The residents, some of whom have lived at the settlement for up to nine years, and who are not Otjiherero speaking, say that black farmers often treat them with contempt and regard them as second-class citizens.

“We get hired by Herero farmers, but when we come back, they don’t want to pay us. We are angry,” said Paulus Ruseke, 53, who has lived at Ozhambo for two years and who is originally from the Kavango Region.

He said if they try to report the farmer to the police, the police only direct them to the Labour Court and since they do not have money to travel, they are left with no option but to abandon their cases altogether. “We are abused. You fix fences, cut trees but they just pay you peanuts like N$100 while you did a lot of work,” he said in disbelief.

Ruseke said one farmer promised to hire him to drive a truck as he has a heavy-duty licence, but when he arrived at the village in question the farmer told him to look after goats.

Mathew Jonas, 37, who came to Ozohambo eight years ago, said he has worked at so many villages in the area, including Otjombinde and Okamujenda and other places in the Otjinene area, but it has always been the same story of empty promises and unpaid wages.

“Now I only want to work for white farmers – at least they pay,” he added.

Matthew Willibard, 42, who arrived at Ozohambo five years ago, said farm work is not easy but it hurts more when you get cheated out of your earnings.

He said even though he wants to turn jobs down, he is left with no option but to take a chance, hoping that the next employer would not be as bad.

Bonifacius Naileta, 47, who has been living there for nine years also complained of not being paid for doing hard work for Otjiherero-speaking farmers. The four residents are asking government to take up their plight and assist them in getting decent jobs or at least announce on radio the treatment they get in Otjinene Constituency.

The residents are now hoping a new government to be elected on Friday will bring about the much needed changes in their neighbourhood, especially to provide electricity.

Saul Karuvapa, who has been living at the settlement for the past four years, said that everything is fine except the provision of electricity, while Emma van Drieks, who was visiting, said she hoped that the new government would take the plight of farm workers seriously as she was just recently fired from a farm for falling sick.

“The new government must make sure our rights are protected,” she said.

Elizabeth Kautjituavi also shared other residents’ sentiments, saying electricity is the only problem they have, while Anadine Tjirera complained that it seems application forms for Build Together houses were only being given to certain people, while others were being sidelined.

“We want brick houses. Some people came here in 2012 and held meetings so that we can get houses, but until now nothing has come of it,” she said.

New Era was unable to get comment from Otjiherero-speaking farmers.

Source : New Era