Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Hell for migrant farm workers

Hell for migrant farm workers

By Legal Monitor
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 11:27

HARARE – Farm workers, most of them migrant labourers, left destitute by the 
chaotic land reform programme are having their “inhuman and degrading 
treatment” under the spot-light again.

Mozambican descendent Binias Yolamu came to Zimbabwe as a young 24-year-old 
in 1964 and has been a farm labourer since.

Three decades after the end of colonialism, Yolamu is battling to keep head 
above water and has had to approach the courts to intervene after being 
chased off the place he had called home for ages.

With nowhere else to go, having established his roots in Zimbabwe, a now 
elderly Yolamu is pinning hopes on the Supreme Court to end his misery.

Yolamu has made an application for referral of his matter together with 84 
other families to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of 
some parts of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act, which he 
says have reduced him and other farm workers in his situation to “inhuman 
and degrading treatment.”

“The land reform process is a form of affirmative action meant to advance 
black economic empowerment,” his lawyers argue in court papers.

“It (land reform) was not envisaged to be a chief driver of leading poor 
farm workers into destitution by driving them off the farms from where they 
are employed without any form of recognition or terminal benefits to enable 
them to start a new life after investing their whole lives to working on 
land that was subsequently gazetted.

“That, in our respectful view is not empowerment but forced destitution 
which could never have had been the intention of the legislature,” the 
lawyers argued in an affidavit deposed with the Magistrates Court last week.

Yolamu came to Zimbabwe from Mozambique as a migrant worker in 1964 and is 
among workers from Mgutu Farm in Mazowe facing charges of contravening 
Section 3 (2) (a) as read with Section 3 (3) of the Gazetted Land 
(Consequential Provisions) Act, (Chapter 20:28) “Occupation of Gazetted Land 
without Lawful Authority.”

This follows a complaint by a new farmer Kingstone Dutiro, who wants the 
employees of former farm owner Archie Black to leave Mgutu Farm.

The State, led by Edmore Makoto, is now prosecuting the 85 workers.

The workers accuse the State of failing to protect them as enshrined in the 
Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Yolamu and his co-accused persons say they have nowhere else to go as they 
cannot trace their roots to Malawi or Mozambique where they are originally 

Yolamu has been at the farm for 48 years as a worker.

“Neither Section 16, 16A, 16B of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, nor the 
Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions), Act (Chapter 20:28), contain such 
a provision terminating my contract of employment by mere virtue of the farm 
being gazetted,” Yolamu argues.

“Being prosecuted in this matter for residing at a farm where I have been 
accommodated as a consequence of my employment thereat is an act of 
constructive dismissal which I must be protected against at law.”

Yolamu – through lawyers — Lewis Uriri, Jeremiah Bamu and Kennedy Masiye, 
argues that the land reform was meant to address colonial land imbalances 
and not infringe on labour rights.

“These laws (Sections 16, 16A and 16B of the Constitution and the Gazetted 
Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act, [chapter 20:28]), deal with ownership 
of land which is the subject of a farming enterprise. It does not deal with 
the individual relationships such as employment within the farming 
enterprise itself. To this end, these laws do not and must never be 
construed as interfering in any way with our labour rights,” says Yolamu.

The group of former farm workers says since the departure of Black they 
“have lived in extreme and abject poverty that has been forced on us.”

The 72-year-old said: “These plot holders have made use of our services on 
various occasions and have failed to remunerate us for these services. This 
in our view could be the reason why they are now orchestrating for our 
prosecution in this matter. We submit that this is an abuse of court process 
for an employer to seek the prosecution of its employees simply because it 
is failing to pay such employees for services rendered.”

Harare Magistrate Lazarus Murendo is expected to hear the State’s opposition 
to the application for referral filed by the former farm workers.

Prosecutor Makoto told the court that he would be opposing the application 
when the case resumes on Friday.

Last week, Magistrate Murendo requested the public gallery to be emptied to 
accommodate some of the 85 accused persons while the application was being 

“It would be unfair for the accused, some of them being elderly and mothers 
with babies to be standing in court,” he said while appealing to court 
attendees to allow the accused persons to utilise the public gallery seats.

The 85 workers say they have not been paid since Black left.


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