‘Underpaid’ Zim farm workers lose R1,6m case

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By Thupeyo Muleya

A South African magistrate has thrown out a bid by 300 Zimbabwean farm workers who sought to recover R1,6 million from a Limpopo farmer who has been underpaying them for the last 10 years.

Mr Van der Walt, the proprietor of Johannesburg Farm in Lephalale area, and nine other top managers had been dragged to court for assault and kidnapping of the Zimbabweans, but was freed after witnesses failed to show up several times at the courts.

Sources close to the case said 36 of the witnesses failed to attend the trial when that country’s Home Affairs Department deported them under the guise that they would be called when the trial resumes.

However, most of the witnesses were allegedly never called to testify against Mr Van Der Walt.

Department of Labour spokesperson for Limpopo Province Miss Lerato Makomene confirmed the developments yesterday.

She said Mr Van der Walt had also been separately charged by the Department of Home Affairs for employing illegal immigrants.

“The Department of Labour had also filed another charge of labour exploitation, but our case is now weak since the court has thrown out the case.

“Our hands are tied. There is nothing more we can do at law,” said Miss Makomene.

She said the farmer was accused of forcing the Zimbabweans to work from 6am to 11pm, and paying them R70 instead of the government-stipulated R103 for an eight hour-shift per day.

“We tried to bring him to the round table without success, and hence, we had to resort to legal action,” she said.

The expelled workers’ spokesperson, Mr Thembani Ndlovu, who is a former foreman at the farm, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The Herald