ANC to appeal Trollip SAHRC ruling as ex-farm workers break silence

BY CHARL BOSCH - JULY 22, 2016

The African National Congress (ANC) has said it will appeal the South African Human Rights Commission’s ruling to clear Democratic Alliance (DA) Nelson Mandela Bay Mayoral candidate, Athol Trollip, of gross human rights abuse against eight former farmworkers.

This comes after the SAHRC announced in March it would no longer investigate the allegations brought by former DA PR Councillor Knight Mali and municipality councillor Lawrence Troon, as it took place before its establishing in 1995.

The party has accused Trollip of unfair labour practises against the workers during the family’s ownership of the Mount Prospect farm near Bedford, with charges ranging from hate speech, failure to failure to provide sanitation and proper running water, to evicting workers illegally without providing alternative housing, paying wages well below the minimum limit and making no provision for severance packages.

Addressing the media at the Athenaeum on Thursday, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said they would compel the courts to have the allegations investigated as the respondents have suffered serious abuse and indignity at the hands of Trollip and his family.

“[Farming] is the most vulnerable sector of our economy… it is important to protect the rights of workers, many of whom continue to suffer the same indignity and violation of human rights like the people who are here today,” Kodwa said.

At the same event, five out of the eight workers gave testimony how they were forced to sleep on the floors of disused train carriages, as well being verbally abused by Trollip and his father Douglas on a number of occasions.

“He would often physically beat us and swear by referring to us as baboons and pigs. We were made to feel that we were inferior to them,” worker James Mxaku, who started working on the farm at the age of 14, said.

He also alleged that none of the workers were ever provided with health care and that his payment, which consisted of R1 per month, a few cups of maize meal and mielies, remained intact under Athol snr, Douglas and Athol jnr.

In a similar response, an emotional Nancy Ntsendwana said she was taken out of school at age 14 to work as a domestic worker in the Trollip household, where she often went five months without payment and to work long hours with no downtime.

Fighting back tears, she also stated how her only meal would be small plate of maize and that Trollip’s mother, who described as being “practically rude”, chased her of for having a plate of food.

Another former domestic worker, Regina Ntabeni, recalled how she was often verbally abused by Trollip jnr and that she, like others, were never informed about the farm being sold in 2005. She stated that many of family’s animals were treated better than the workforce, and that the women were told to remove their shoes before stepping inside the house.

Trollip has however described the allegations as a deliberate attempt to discredit him before next month’s local government elections.

 

CAPTION: Former domestic worker Nancy Ntsendwana, flanked by ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, breaks down as she recalls being forced to leave school at age 14 to work on the farm once owned by the family of Democratic Alliance (DA) Nelson Mandela Bay Mayoral candidate Athol Trollip