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FARM WORKERS TELL THEIR STORIES

“We must unearth all commonage land, in every town, including all the land that municipalities over the years have leased to white commercial farmers!” This was the call to action Sunday from Dr Wallace Mgoqi, a Commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and Acting Judge in the Land Claims Court.

Mgoqi was speaking in Robertson at the launch of “Farm Workers Speak”, a book that showcases the stories and lived-experiences of farm workers. About a hundreds people, many of them workers on farms in and around Robertson, attended the event at a local restaurant.

Mgoqi stressed that making state land available in the form of municipal commonage was a starting point in giving people access to land they can use productively and sustainably.

“Commonage land can be used as a training ground until farmers graduate to the next level of commercial farming,” he said.

“In fact, it is an indictment of the Department of Public Works that there is no inventory or registry of commonage land in every town in the country, as this is state land,” Mgoqi added in his speech.

Mgoqi, who is also a former City Manager in the City of Cape Town, revealed that the Foundation for Human Rights is considering research around commonage land in South Africa. “The research will look at the extent of commonage land as well the details of the contracts on that commonage land”.

The Commissioner proposed an Action Plan that will include, “Releasing all commonage land from all burdens upon it, so that it can be allocated to the poor for productive use, profitable use and sustainable use.”

Mgoqi was appointed a CGE Commissioner in 2012, and has been serving as an Assessor in the Land Claims Court since 2011. He is the champion of the CGE's initiative called “One Woman, One Hectare of Land”. The campaign aims to persuad the State to allocate at least one hectare of land to the poorest women, both in urban and rural areas, as part of the economic empowerment of women.

Celebrations marking the launch of the book included a local dance group and DJ. Published jointly by the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) and the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), “Farm Workers Speak” has ten different stories that provide a glimpse into the experiences and realities of farmworkers.

For a copy of the book, you can contact the TCOE on 021 685 3033.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT MERCIA ANDREWS ON 082 368 3429

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