SAHRC never investigated Trollip farm workers’ plight - legal rep


The lawyers representing eight former farm workers who suffered alleged human rights abuse on a farm previously owned by Democratic Alliance (DA) Nelson Mandela Bay Mayoral candidate Athol Trollip, has claimed that an investigation into the complains never took place due to a change in the prescribed South African Humans Rights Commission (SAHRC) Act.

Addressing the media at a press briefing held by the African National Congress (ANC) at the Athenaeum on Thursday afternoon, where the party announced it would appeal the commission’s ruling, lawyer Vinesh Naidoo said the matter was submitted as a joint complaint to the SAHRC’s office in East London on February 23rd, before being dismissed a month later on the grounds that the alleged incidents took place before 1995.

“The reason why the East London branch refused to proceed with the investigation was that they claimed that in terms of the SAHRC Act 54 of 1994, that the complaints had taken place prior to the establishing of the SAHRC,” Nadioo said.

“We however pointed out that the Act had in fact been replaced by the SAHRC Act of 2013 which came into effect on the 5th of September 2014, and that they had been wrong in not investigating the reports. We have lodged an appeal to the SAHRC in Johannesburg and currently advised that they are considering our appeal, which we are confident would proceed to investigation”.

According to the party, the eight workers, David Kota, Richmond Ngalo, his mother Jane, Nancy Ntsendwana, James and Rita Mxaku as well as Timi and Regina Ntabeni were subjected to exploration, unfair labour practices and verbal abuse while working on the Trollip family’s Mount Prospect farm near Bedford.

Breaking their silence on the allegations for the first time at the same event, five of the eight stated that they had to work long hours with little in the way of payment and downtime, and that Trollip’s father, Douglas, would often refer to them as monkeys and pigs.

They also claimed to have had no access to water and sanitation, were evicted illegally and never informed by Trollip when he sold the farm in 2005.

“[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,” ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

He however vehemently denied speculation that the timing of the appeal had been in response to the forthcoming local government elections, saying the respondents had on previous occasions tried to raise matter to no avail.

“We are dealing with the history of our people which must be mentioned. We cannot, just because we are in the election, turn a blind eye to the suffering of black people. They are not assimilated with the ANC… the ANC will win the Metro with or without this testimony,” he said, before accusing the media in Nelson Mandela Bay of having become the “voice of the oppressor”.

“The ANC will continue to be in government, but there are issues we must raise that the media has become assimilated to this oppressor agenda. We cannot build a new South Africa while dealing with this sad history. Why can’t they claim this history? The real history of the DA is Trollip. There are many Trollips out there. Their suffering must be a lesson to others. We must reject any form of discrimination exploitation”.