Trollip briefing on farm workers “disturbing” - Knight Mali

BY CHARL BOSCH - JULY 25, 2016

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) Nelson Mandela Bay PR councillor Knight Mali has accused the party’s Mayoral Candidate, Athol Trollip, of spreading lies at a media briefing last week about the alleged abuse of farm workers on his family’s former farm near Bedford.

On Thursday, an emotional Trollip broke down after earlier being criticised by eight workers at a briefing hosted by the African National Congress (ANC), that they were subjected to human rights violations by him, his father and grandfather, including hate speech, failure to provide water and sanitation, paid well below the minimum wage and illegally removed from the premises without proper reason.

“[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 at the event.

The party’s legal presentation had stated it would lay charges against Trollip at the South African Humans Rights Commission (SAHRC) after the case was wrongly thrown out in March due to an alleged change in the prescribed Act

“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,” lawyer Vinesh 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“We however pointed out that the Act had in fact been replaced by the SAHRC Act of 2013 which came into effect on the 5th of September 2014, and that they had been wrong in not investigating the reports.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”.

Speaking at a session later, Trollip said the accusations amounted to a desperate attempt by the ruling to discredit him before next week’s local government elections, and that he was being targeted due to the DA’s gaining of momentum in the Metro.

He also reportedly denied that four of the eight workers present at the briefing ever worked on the farm, and that he had been hurt by the claims.

In a statement, Mali, who along with controversial ANC councilor Lawrence Troon are being sued by Trollip for defamation of character, said the DA leader’s denial that James Mxaku, Senzeni Ntsendwana and Richman Ngalo ever worked on the farm was not only disturbing, but that the testimony of domestic worker Mabel Skhepe at the briefing amounted to a concern as she was never known to have worked on the farm.

“Trollip himself knows about Mxaku and Ntsendwana. He has had several personal and telephone conversation about cattle compensation and access to forbearers graves on the farm. It is surprising that now Trollip suffers from bouts of amnesia and does not remember them anymore,” Mali said on behalf of the workers.

“As the families who came forward to expose the gross abuse and human rights violation on the Trollip family farm, we have no knowledge of Mabel Skhephe… we saw her for the first time on television and she has never set foot on that farm during our tenure. We were never provided with toilets, however, the new owner has made provision for toilets but we are adamant that Athol Trollip never made provisions”.

Mali said the workers also dispute the contents of a wage book Trollip had the briefing, and that it believes Ngalo’s testimony that he worked on the farm while still a child.

“[Ngalo’ brother] was whisked away and never grew up on the farm to protect him. For these services the young boys were paid anything between to R5 or R10 per year depending on the mood of Trollip year end. This was gross exploitation and crass form of child labour as this meant that schooling was compromised in favour of herding the cattle,” Mali continued.

“We would like to challenge Mr Trollip to make public the wage book and subject its validity to a forensic probe by experts in that field”.

 

CAPTION: Former Democratic Alliance (DA) Nelson Mandela Bay PR councillor Knight Mali speaks to ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte outside City Hall in April, minutes after announcing his departure from the DA to the ANC.