The Limpopo Department of Labour has described as untrue reports of inhumane conditions at tomato producer ZZ2’s farmworkers’ residence.
The department also says reports they were forced to stay at the quarters and denied the right to go home since the start of the lockdown are false. Allegations of inhumane conditions and restricted movements were made by some workers in June.
In a statement, the Department of Labour states that its provincial chief inspector conducted an inspection visit on one of ZZ2’s farms at night in order to monitor the workers’ living conditions.
Chief inspector Phaswane Tladi stated that she found the quarters to be compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as COVID-19 compliance protocols. “Phaswane also found that allegations that the company has been preventing its employees from going to their homes since the lockdown was implemented are untrue.”
In June, ZZ2 was accused of having a COVID-19 prevention strategy that infringes on the human right of its employees. The strategy entails workers being placed at campsites on the farms.
The employees say they have limited movement and are not allowed to get around unsupervised until the lockdown is lifted.
There are also allegations that workers have been threatened with expulsion if they visit their homes.
Workers stationed at various farms that are owned by ZZ2 across Limpopo say they have not seen their families since the start of the lockdown. This, as the company told them that they should not go anywhere, to prevent contracting the COVID-19 and spreading it on the farms.
The workers say since March, they have been only allowed to leave farm premises once every week when company buses ferry them to the nearest shopping complex to buy essentials.
One of the workers says the situation is hard on her and her young children.
“Ever since the lockdown was announced in March, we have not been to our homes. It is hard and they say if you leave for a funeral or anything else, you should not come back because there is still the coronavirus.”