Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Thembi Siweya, today held an interactive engagement with farmers in Ephraim Mogale Municipality in Limpopo.
During their interaction, Deputy Minister Siweya raised concerns about the transport conditions of the workers.
On her way to the planned engagement with the farm owners in the area, she visited designated pickup points for farm workers and observed worrying levels of non-compliance to COVID-19 regulations.
Deputy Minister Siweya found that farmworkers are transported on tractors, trucks and buses that are not compliant with COVID-19 health protocols of social distancing.
These modes of transportation did not offer protective measures such as sanitizers and some of the employees were not wearing their face masks.
She also observed that the farmers kept their workers within their employ throughout the COVID-19 period and that was highly welcomed.
This, according to the Deputy Minister, is positive for the personal interests of farmers, farmworkers and their families and most importantly, for the country in terms of food security needs.
During the engagement session with the farm owners, Deputy Minister Siweya raised concerns about what she had observed and she emphasized the importance of COVID-19 regulations especially for the farming sector considering its critical role for the country’s food security strategy.
“It is highly pleasing that you, as farmers, have continued to keep farmworkers in your employ in a relationship which benefits both of you. But I also want you to never forget that it is also in service of our country,” she said.
Deputy Minister Siweya also expressed concerns about the transport conditions of farmworkers.
“These are not only a health hazard but also a threat to the stability of the socio-economic conditions of the country. Farming is a strategic sector of the country’s economy and largely accounts for the preservation of food security in the country.
“It is necessary that the sector complies with COVID-19 regulations, save the lives of employees and sustain productivity. Your health as farm owners is interlinked to that of farmworkers and our country,” Deputy Minister Siweya said.
Leading by example, the Deputy Minister insisted that only a few representatives of the farming association should attend the engagement session.
She also insisted that instead of using a closed boardroom for the engagement, the meeting be held under a tree where there is proper ventilation.
During the engagement, the farm owners welcomed the Deputy Minister’s feedback and committed to device a safer plan for the transportation of workers as well as improve health protocols in the farms.
The association will furnish the office of the Deputy Minister with a mitigating report within a period of two weeks.
The officials at the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will follow-up to validate the report. The report will also be presented to the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform.
The Deputy Minister’s visit in the area is in response to the President’s directive that Ministers and Deputy Ministers be deployed to various districts in the country to monitor compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
Deputy Minister Siweya has been allocated the Sekhukhune District as a site of monitoring.
She will be focusing on various centres of service delivery to ensure compliance with the regulations and the district’s response to socio-cultural, health and economic issues such as gender-based violence, alcohol abuse, stigmatization, readiness of the health facilities and support to Small Medium Enterprises.
“We need each other now more than ever. We have to ensure that all people around us are safe, not just for their sake, but for our own as well as the loved ones,” Deputy Minister Siweya said.
As part of her deployment, the Deputy Minister will also visit all the local municipalities in the Sekhukhune district to monitor compliance with COVID-19 regulations.