"The wages here are too small, R72 (£5) a day. You cannot buy anything with that money," strike organiser Shaun Janca said. "The money that they pay us is nothing. We work our whole lives but still we have nothing. We are working for what? For what?"
"The labourers are working for a minimum wage of R69.39 per day. Per week it is R346.95 a week and the workers can't work for that amount. They say it is a 'hunger wage' " activist and local labour advisor Petrus Brink said. "The poor people and the workers are getting poorer. They can't support their families and can't take care of their children. That is why they are becoming so aggressive, because the R346.95 is not even enough for them to survive for a week,"
"People are hungry, they are frustrated and they are tired. They want to work but they want to see some improvement in their working conditions," said Braam Hanekom, chairman of People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop)
Many of the workers come in to do seasonal work from areas such as the Eastern Cape, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and even Somalia. "This creates a condition where permanent workers feel that their employment is under threat - that they might lose their permanent jobs. The grapes and citrus farmed in the area are intended for the export market. "The farmers make large sums of profit, but then there is no return for the workers. The farm owners reason they don't have to bargain for farm labour because there is already a pool of cheap labour, and so if the permanent workers from the Western Cape don't want to work for that amount, the farmers do have access to another labour market," Brink said. With a cheaper migrant labour force prepared to live in squatter camps, farmers have been less inclined to offer housing, education or other social amenities.
A report issued by Human Rights Watch in August 2011 Ripe with Abuse detailed a litany of rights abuses practiced by some local farmers. It documented evidence of housing on farms unfit for living; labourers being exposed to fertilisers and pesticides without the proper safety equipment; a lack of access to water while working in dehydrating conditions; the lack of toilet facilities for workers; and the undue pressure put on workers to stop them from joining unions. It also detailed threats of evictions made against residents who had stayed on farms for long periods of time.