MASVINGO: Conditions of work for most farmworkers in the province have worsened since the government land seizure programme to the extent that some of them work in snake infested fields with bare hands and for almost no pay.
This is according to a research whose results were revealed during a ZimRights National People’s dialogue on social-economic and cultural justice held at a local hotel recently.
The research also revealed that farm workers were living under inhumane conditions since government embarked on the land reform programme.
Workers said they were poorly accommodated and operated under unspeakable working conditions. They said they were working without protective clothing and adequate equipment and were not being paid most of the times.
“We are now using bushes to relieve ourselves. The toilets are filled up and the new farmers are not building new ones,” one farm worker said.
“White farmers used to treat solid human waste with acidic soda so the toilets would not fill up, but our new employers are not doing the same and they have almost ignored the development of farm infrastructure,” added the worker.
Dr. Charlton Tsodzo, who carried out the research on the conditions of farm workers in the sugar plantations of Chiredzi and farms in Hurungwe last year, said over 20 families were sharing one pit latrine.
He added that most farm workers had no access to good houses, education and health facilities.
“The situation is bad in most farms. Some workers are not paid and are staying at the farm because they don’t have anywhere to go as most have worked on the farm most of their lives,” Tsodzo said.
“Some workers work without protective clothing, not even safety shoes in the snake-infested sugarcane plantations. They will be removing sugarcane leaves using bare hands, without overalls,” he added.
Some of the workers said they were living in shacks after the new farmers, mostly senior personnel from the uniformed forces, vandalised the farm compounds and sold the roofing material.
Zimrights National chairperson Passmore Nyakureba told the meeting that farm workers’ rights were not being respected and were seriously violated since black farmers took over previously white-owned farms.
He said the situation should be addressed before it got out of hand.
Female workers also claimed that they were not given maternity leave, let alone transport to go and deliver at clinics that are often far from their work place.