South Africa: Farmworkers demand wealth tax for the 1%
FAIR for ALL partner ‘Women on Farms Project’ (WFP), picketed outside of the South African Parliament in Cape Town. This was ahead of the Finance Minister’s budget speech on 23 February 2022. They called for the introduction of a wealth tax on the country’s richest 1%, saying that the funds should be used to alleviate poverty.
About 30 women held up placards that read: “Enoch introduce a wealth tax” and “Pay wealth tax now”. The women live or work on farms in Stellenbosch, Wellington, De Doorns, Rawsonville, and Paarl in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
Women on Farms Project (WFP) proposes that revenue from the wealth tax can be used for financing land redistribution and reform, universal quality healthcare, quality education and the Basic Income Grant (BIG) for vulnerable people, including women on farms who can’t even afford the fruit they grow.
The wealth tax could help build specialized health facilities for women in rural areas. It also can be used to fund research and facilities for children with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is an endemic problem in farming communities because of the history of the dop system during colonialism and slavery. During this time, farmers paid workers with wine, which lead to intergenerational alcohol dependency that continues till this day.
At the protest, Women on Farms also called for the special Covid grant of R350 to be increased. This grant was not enough to support women farmworkers, who are seasonal workers put out of work by Covid 19 lockdowns over the past two years.
Charmaine King lives and works on vineyards in Stellenbosch and says that she is struggling to make ends meet with the R350 grant. It is not enough for her family’s food, electricity, and transport needs. She added further that access to healthcare was also a challenge in many communities because it is difficult for farm dwellers who live in remote areas to get to clinics and hospitals. “If you call an ambulance now, it will only get to you tomorrow. We must pay people with cars R200 to R300 to take you to the hospital,” said King.
Meanwhile Janine Petersen, a seasonal farmworker, shared that living conditions on the farms were unbearable. She lives and works on a fruit farm in Wellington. Petersen has to pay for electricity and rent with the little they are paid as farmworkers, in the face of rising food prices and other expenses. She also adds that many farmworkers don’t have access to clean water or adequate sanitation.
(Source: Oxfam South Africa and iol South Africa)