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We do not want to stay at resorts- farmworkers

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“We would not want any worker to risk losing their jobs. I will continue to monitor if all the necessary safety guidelines are being followed”

OVER 200 farmworkers from a well-known commercial farm assembled at the Barkly West police station yesterday, in objection to “being forced” to stay at Pro Regno and Deo Gloria resorts over the next 21 days, in order to continue with production during the national lockdown that begins tomorrow night.

Concerns were raised that in the event of an outbreak, workers would be infected with the coronavirus as up to four people are apparently sharing sleeping facilities.

Community leader William Ntaka stated that over 200 farmworkers were transported to the resorts in four buses yesterday, without any protective gear.

“The farmworkers come from afar, including the North West, Taung and Klerksdorp. No certainty was provided regarding whether the necessary testing kits for the coronavirus will be made available at the accommodation site. Workers were threatened that if they refused to work they would lose their jobs and that if they chose to stay at home, they would not be paid,” Ntaka claimed.

Dikgatlong independent councillor Mentley Bezuidenhout added that many of the workers resided in Pampierstad, Taung and Hartswater and would be separated from their families for a long time.

“The workers felt that they were not consulted regarding the accommodation arrangements, where they will be transported daily to and from the farms. They are worried that they will not be able to protect their children during this critical time. Workers pointed out that two people have already tested positive for the virus in Hartswater and they are worried about also becoming infected,” said Bezuidenhout.

Following a meeting yesterday afternoon, Bezuidenhout stated that the farm owner had explained that the accommodation was being arranged in order to protect the workers from possible infection and that they were permitted to stay at the resorts “out of their own free will”.

“We would not want any worker to risk losing their jobs. I will continue to monitor if all the necessary safety guidelines are being followed,” said Bezuidenhout.

SAPS national commissioner spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said that he was still awaiting an official report on the matter.

Northern Cape Department of Employment and Labour spokesperson Kebalepile Khula said that they were not able to respond by the time of going to print yesterday. “The issue raised needs multi-departmental attention.”

The farm owner also did not respond to media enquiries.