1st May 2022

1st May is May Day, also known as Workers’ Day, has been officially recognised and observed since the first democratic elections in 1994. The day serves both as a celebration of workers’ rights and as a reminder of the critical role that trade unions, labour organisations, local associations and community organisations played in the fight against Apartheid. This day reminds us to work tirelessly towards a world in which all workers are treated fairly and their significance is acknowledged everyday. Today we are reminded of the arduous efforts of workers who work to support and improve the lives of their families, and contribute effectively to the workforce and the economy. 

We are also reminded to celebrate the workers who play the integral role in achieving food security for the world. It is sad to see this day being celebrated while farm workers are still suffering to this day. Unfortunately many farmworkers don\’t have much reason to celebrate this day. Working in the agriculture industry is labour intensive and difficult. For that reason all farm workers across the world deserve to be paid fairly for their labour and to work safe conditions. Farm workers are essential to the economy and food system, but they are the most poor and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The same people who produce our food are the most vulnerable to hunger. 

Many farmworkers and the families are been evicted, others are now forced to work for labour brokers as seasonal and contract workers. These seasonal and contract workers are working without any benefits for very minimum wages! This has to stop.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many employees have been able to work remotely but those working in farms were deemed essential. Our agricultural system would collapse without farm workers, and as such they are deemed essential workers. But as farm workers continue to grow and harvest the food we all rely on, they are exposed to many dangers ranging from health and safety issues such as pesticides  use, poor transport, lack of water to wash hands etc.

But the biggest challenge is the fact that farm workers remain marginalised and landless.

Our country has laws guaranteeing wages, benefits, safe working and housing conditions for workers and other farm dwellers. However the government  has failed to monitor conditions and enforce those laws. While the focus has been on the expropriation of land which has yet to materialise,  there is also a need to focus on the redistribution of land. We believe that it is important farm workers and dwellers are active participants in the conceptualisation and formulation of their specific land needs.

Our government has truly failed both the Freedom Charter and the Constitution by failing to get the land into the hands of those who actually work it.

Rural Women’s Assembly in South Africa won\’t be silent and watch as the most essential workers of our country are left to suffer and remain vulnerable to abuse. We demand that land redistribution to farm women must be an explicit policy formulation and land must be attached to other resources such as water rights and complementary support.

 Farm workers’ rights are human rights. Farm workers deserve better in the country which they bring so much value to. Rural Women’s Assembly South Africa will continue to fight for the rights of rural women farm workers until they too can be able celebrate this day with joy. 

1st May 2022.


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