This follows the apparent disregard of labour laws by the farmers in Wesselsbron, Free State. The Department of Labour is conducting blitz inspections with all its competencies represented on the farms in the area.
The farmer is alleged to have contravened labour laws such as Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Sectoral Determination 13: Farm Workers Sector (SD13), Unemployment Insurance Act (UIA), Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
Children below the legal age were identified as part of the workforce on two farms in Wesselsbron, consequential to this, the Labour Inspector opened a case against the farmer for contravening section 43 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) which prohibits work by children at SAPS in Wesselsbron.
There were 23 children that were saved from the two farms and in collaboration with the Department of Social Development, these children were taken to a place of safety.
“It was also discovered that some of these seasonal employees have not been paid ever since they started working there, with some receiving partial payment which is still not in accordance with the minimum wages for farm workers,” the department said.
Since Monday, the Department of Labour has been working tirelessly registering complaints from 181 seasonal employees.
Failure by the employer to pay the outstanding wages as prescribed by SD13 will result in prosecution being recommended.
Employees were made aware of health risks they are exposed to and control measures the employer should have put in place to mitigate those risks. Subsequent to that, work was stopped immediately.
The appalling, hazardous and inhumane conditions this farmer exposed his seasonal employees necessitated collaboration between relevant government departments.
A joint operation between the Department of Labour, Home Affairs, Human Settlements, Social Development, as well as the South African Police Service (SAPS) was activated.
Subsequently, SAPS removed all employees from Driehoek farm where they stayed.
“To give impetus to the strides made thus far, the Free State Province has also mandated role players within the Youth and Social Responsibility Priority Committee to develop a joint action plan on how to eradicate child labour in the province.
“The Department of Labour and other law enforcement agencies are working tirelessly to bring to book the perpetrators of these alleged atrocities which resulted from the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Nomfundo-Douw-Jack, Chief Director: Provincial Operations.
In an effort to intensify compliance, the Department of Labour in collaboration with other government departments will conduct blitz inspections in other parts of Lejweleputswa district.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant and Deputy Minister Inkosi Phathekile Holomisa as well as the Director General, Thobile Lamati have collectively condemned any form of child labour.