Farm workers accuse police and farmers of working “hand in glove”

Dispute on Eastern Cape farm after video shows farmer pulling down family’s home extension.

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Photo of a man pulling down a shack structure
Image from a video that has been circulating on the Baviaanskloof Land Claims Committee’s Whatsapp chat group.

On 1 November Marissa Human watched part of her home being dismantled by the owner of the farm where she stays. The incident was caught on video and circulated on the Baviaanskloof Land Claims Committee Whatsapp chat group.

The committee has compiled a report into claims of human rights abuses in the Baviaanskloof area and given it to Member of the Provincial Legislature Christian Martin (ANC). He said he will raise the issue in the Bhisho legislature.

The report describes a number of complaints about the local police and three farmers. Allegations against the farmers include cases of assault, beatings and the use of racist language.

A petition was also drawn up with 88 names calling for the removal of Studtis (Baviaanskloof) police station commander Herman Smith. [Editor’s note: Most of the names recorded are in the same handwriting.]

A complaint has also been laid with the South African Human Rights Commission.

Human does not work on the farm in the Baviaanskloof area, 40km from Willowmore in the Eastern Cape. But she lives there with her husband, Nico, who she says has been employed by the Lamprecht family for more than 17 years as a farm worker. They live in a two-roomed house with their three children, aged two, eight and 13.

The video shows Christiaan Louwrens Lamprecht pulling down a shack structure.

Speaking in Afrikaans through an interpreter, Human said, “We were shocked because Mr Lamprecht had given us permission to build that extension. The place is too small so we wanted to extend with one more room. He gave us prior permission only to backtrack when the room was almost completed.”

Lamprecht denies ever giving permission.

In the complaint Human laid before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), she says that her water supply was cut off by Lamprecht. She says two other families have to drink water from a tank that he supplies. She asks “for the landowner to provide houses with the basic facilities like water, electricity and toilets”.

“I suspect that Mr Lamprecht was not comfortable with my joining of the local Baviaanskloof Residents Committee,” she said. “The Committee looks into the plight and welfare of residents, including farm workers around the district. “

But Lamprecht said, “I manage good relations with the Baviaanskloof Residents Committee and have assisted them in the past. I [have] no knowledge of Ms Human’s membership and the committee has no relationship to taking down of the structure.”

Lamprecht said, “The house does not belong to Ms Human … The structure was illegal and has been partly erected without permission. On numerous occasions the parties have been given notice not to erect illegal structures to existing dwellings without prior approval.”

The matter is now in the Willowmore Magistrate Court where Lamprecht is seeking an interdict against Human. “But”, he said “I am not evicting her”. [Editor’s note: We have been unable to find out exactly what the interdict seeks.]

Human said: “The police were there when Lamprecht was destroying my shack. They did nothing to stop it. The [police] station commander is well known for refusing to register complaints from workers. This place is stinking of apartheid. The white farmers work hand in glove with the police.”

Police station commander Herman Smith said, “The case is under investigation and I cannot say anything at present. The investigating officer said he is still collecting information from the complainants and he also indicated that he will also collect information from some police officers.”

Smith said, “I don’t know of anyone who was turned away from the police station because of their race. The case in question is under criminal investigation and as police we are attending to it.”

Joey De Vos, who is an assistant for the ANC Willowmore parliamentary constituency office, said, “We held a meeting on 4 November with residents and farm workers in Willowmore. This is after the Marissa case.”

De Vos said, “We have a serious problem in this area with farmers who abuse their employees. The farmers don’t want their workers to join unions. Workers are just expelled and thrown in the streets without any compensation. The farmers can do whatever they want because the police only arrest workers, not employers.”

TOPICS:  Human Rights Land

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