MOST infrastructure at commercial farms has been vandalised or has not been repaired since their takeover by indigenous farmers at the launch of the land reform programme in 2000, exposing farm workers to inhuman living conditions, NewsDay has learnt.
by Everson Mushava
Speaking at a ZimRights national people’s dialogue on social-economic and cultural justice in Masvingo last Friday, some farm workers said their ablution and water infrastructure was last repaired more than a decade ago.
“We are now using bushes to relieve ourselves. The toilets are filled up and the new farmers are not building new ones,” said one worker. White farmers used to digest solid waste with caustic soda so that the toilets would not fill up, but our new employers are not doing the same and they have virtually ignored infrastructural development including roads, houses, water reservoirs and toilets. We are living on a health time bomb, particularly during rainy season.”
Charlton Tsodzo, who carried out research on the conditions of farm workers, said over 20 families were sharing one pit latrine at some farms. He said most farm workers had no access to decent housing, education and health facilities.
“The situation is bad in some farms. Some workers are not paid and are staying at the farm because they don’t have anywhere to go,” Tsodzo said.
“Imagine, some workers work without protective clothing and not even safety shoes in the snake- infested sugar cane plantations. They will be removing sugar cane leaves using bare hands, without overalls.”
Some of the workers said they were living in shacks after the new farmers, mostly senior personnel from the uniformed forces vandalised the farm compounds and sold the roofing materials.
Some female workers also claimed that they were not allowed to go on maternity leave.
ZimRights director Okay Machisa said there was need for new employers to consider the rights of their workers. He said farm workers, like any other worker, had rights that their new employers should respect.