Mar 28

Francois Smit multi-million luxury estate

Francois Smit is the owner of a multi-million luxury Longlands Estate. In 2008 he promised his farm workers to improve their living conditions on his farm. Instead of developing the housing conditions for his workers, he planned to open his next multi-million development in February 2017. The Women on Farms Project is going to support these women to get their rights for a human rights friendly living instead of getting another million complex in the Stellenbosch surrounding.

In response to a request from farm dwellers on Longlands farm, with whom we have been working, a community meeting was planned for 7 February. One day before the planned meeting we received a letter from Van Wyk Fouchee, lawyers of owner, Francois Smit, threatening "to take further legal steps" against us if we "follow through with the gathering". This illustrates how owners/farmers restrict farm dwellers' rights of association. It is shameful that a wealthy individual like Francois Smit should have such power and control over the lives of "his" poor workers and dwellers.

At the 16.02.2017 is the planned opening day. For this day Francois Smit hired private security and lawyers to try to prevent the community from protesting for the housing he promised in 2008. Nevertheless WFP started a peaceful demonstration. During the day Women on Farms and some community members from Longlands received letters from the lawyer of Francois Smit trying to prevent our right to demonstrate by threatening to interdict us. By 17.00, WFP and their supporters were all back on the picket line.

At the 1.03.2017 WFP went to the high court to adress this problem. The result was that the case was postponed to Friday, 10 March.

A victory for WFP and the Longlands community as Judge Desai suspended the order (interdict) pending a return date! Aluta continua! A big thank you to Sheldon and Wilmien from the LRC. Amandla awethu!

After Francois Smit's interim interdict to prevent the community's right to lawful protest was suspended in the High Court, the community have vowed to have daily pickets outside his BP garage. Mr Smit and his expensive teams of lawyers and advocates should note that the Gatherings Act allows pickets of 15 or fewer people without giving notice. So WFP are going to continue the peaceful demonstrations on the picket line.

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Oct 27

World Food Day and International Rural Women's Day 2015

Women on Farms Project celebrated World Food Day and International Rural Women's day on 17 October with an event which brought together rural women from 12 different areas in the Western Cape. This year's focus was on the importance and demand for access to land for farmwomen to cultivate their own produce. This year, women demanded “Land for Food” and “One Woman, One Hectare!”

Women’s demand for land for food!

During the day, speakers were invited to guide discussions with the farmwomen around different topics. The first session addressed the impact of climate change on rural women's lives, including the shortening of the agricultural working season and food insecurity. The second discussion focused on food sovereignty as an alternative to the unjust food system, while the last was a dialogue on women's Right to Food, access to land and the impact on their livelihoods. As part of all three sessions, farmwomen shared their personal experiences, stories and motivational messages, vowing to amplify and advance their struggles for land to grow food.

Display of spinach and indigenous seeds captured

As a means of celebrating their cultural culinary practices, some women did cooking demonstrations. This was a chance for women to exchange cooking methods and recipes and taste traditional South African meals. Women with food gardens and the mushroom cooperative also showcased their products and seeds, as well as various products made from their fruit and vegetables, including jams, caramelized figs and pickled vegetables. Community dance groups, including the youth, provided various traditional dances.

Aunty Betty prepares “curry bunnies”

 Youth group from De Doorns contribute to the day’s entertainment

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Nov 25



"Violence against women is a serious and escalating evil in our society. It is both a part of the subordination of women and consequence of that inequality."

Nelson Mandela, 1996

Candice is a 40-year-old farm worker who lives and works in Villiersdorp. She experienced habitual physical abuse at the hands of her husband when he was drunk. One night she called the Villiersdorp police to say that her husband was threatening her with an axe: "Hy wil my kap met 'n byl". The police replied: "Maar jy's nog nie gekap nie!" ("He hasn't hit you yet."). Candice asked if they would only come if she was already dead.

Violence against women on farms has always been historically high, but has today reached pandemic proportions. This is exacerbated by the continued high levels of alcohol abuse, a legacy of the historical 'tot' system. Findings from a WFP survey of violence against women on farms found that more than 1 in 4 farmwomen (28%) have experienced violence at the hands of a partner. As Candice's story demonstrates, the treatment that women receive from police when reporting cases of domestic violence and rape often violates our rights and the Batho Pele principles. Many women experience secondary trauma as a result of the conduct of police officers.

Women on Farms Project capacitates women farm workers to know and claim their rights, and break the silence surrounding violence against women. We invite you to mark 16 Days of Activism with 300 farmwomen at a provincial Event and March.

Sunday, 30 November, 2014 at 14.00 (Candle-light March starts at 16.00)

Franschhoek Town Hall


  • Speakers
  • Dancing (groups from Rawsonville and Wolseley)
  • Drama: “Miena & Danny: A Modern Love Story” (with Women from Soetendal Farm)
  • Flash Mob (with youth from Grabouw, Wolseley and Wellington; will first be performed at Stellenbosch Mall on Saturday, 29 November at 11.00!)
  • Singing

Sharon Messina 021-887 2960 / 072 756 9677 ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )
Chaleen Arendse 021-887 2960 / 082 741 4509 ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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Jun 27

PRESS RELEASE: New land reform proposals won’t work for women farm workers

27June 2014

PRESS RELEASE: New land reform proposals won’t work for women farm workers

The new land reform policy proposed by Minister Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform aims to strengthen the tenure rights of farm workers and dwellers through expansion of opportunities to become “landowners, farm managers, skilled agricultural workers and well-compensated workers” in the sector. According to the proposed policy, government will buy 50 percent of farmland and redistribute it proportionally to workers who have worked “diligently” on the farm for 10, 25 and 50 years respectively.

Following a workshop this week with farmwomen from Ashton, Ceres, Paarl, Rawsonville and Robertson, the following concerns and limitations are noted. Firstly, the policy does not fundamentally address the issue of land ownership per se even if tenure is tenuously addressed by providing shares in the land (and business). In many respects, the proposed policy is an updated version of the existing flawed share equity schemes, which largely benefited farm owners more than farm workers and dwellers, and saw farmers having the controlling decision-making power. The new scheme attempts to overcome this by including government officials in farm-level decision-making. However, given the Department of Rural Development & Land Reform’s lack of capacity and resources to monitor current evictions and share equity schemes, a massive investment will be needed to capacitate the department to effectively play this new role.

Secondly, to qualify for the benefits, a worker would have needed to work for 10 or more years. Since most women are seasonally employed, with most permanent workers being men, women seasonal workers will not receive any of the proposed benefits. They will only receive benefits indirectly if they are married to a man with long service. Women at the workshop stated that this perpetuates their vulnerability, which often makes it difficult to leave abusive relationships as they are dependent on male partners for housing on farms. Women argued for independent tenure, housing and land rights. Moreover, the proposed policy will therefore transfer the shares to men, thereby increasing men’s differential power and control over household resources.

Thirdly, there is also a strong likelihood of pre-emptive dismissals and evictions; in other words, farmers will dismiss, retrench and evict workers just before workers reach 10 years of “diligent” work. This will lead to increased casualisation and tenure insecurity. The danger of such pre-emptive evictions is great given that farmers have until April 2015 to respond to the policy proposal. We have previously seen farmers take pre-emptive or backlash action ahead of new laws being passed which aimed to improve the conditions of farm workers. Therefore, a moratorium on evictions is necessary to avoid such evictions.

To date, very few women directly benefited from farm equity schemes and other land reform initiatives. The current proposal will not redress the gender inequalities of previous schemes, mainly because it implicitly excludes tens of thousands of seasonal women workers. Currently, there are no land or tenure security policy proposals that specifically benefit women, eliminate gender discrimination and facilitate women’s independent tenure security and land ownership.

Although the current policy is well-intentioned, it will not meet the land and food security needs of women farm workers and dwellers. Government needs to meaningfully engage with women farm workers and dwellers to understand the specificities of their challenges and experiences, and the range of tenure and land needs that different groups of women require.


Carmen Louw:021-887 2960/1/2- 083-655 6982

Colette Solomon: 021-887 2960/1/2- 072-415 0992

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Apr 10

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2014: “Inspiring Change”

On Saturday, 8 March 2014, Women on Farms Project (WFP) celebrated International Women’s Day. With the international theme of “Inspiring Change”, 160 farmwomen from various areas, including Ceres, Rawsonville, De Doorns, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Grabouw and Wellington, as well as partners from Mawubuye from Ashton and Robertson and Food Sovereignty from Citrusdal, gathered to mark this day which has been celebrated internationally since 1911 to mark women’s achievements. While noting women’s numerous accomplishments in South Africa, there was an acknowledgement that more changes are still necessary. To this end, the WFP event focused on Violence Against Women (VAW), as a specific issue requiring attention. Following a role-play presented by Aunty Stienie and Alida from Rawsonville, and a presentation by the South African Police Services (SAPS) on the services that women can and should demand when laying charges at police stations, women worked in commissions on the following questions:

1. The extent of the problem of violence against women and children in various communities

2. The nature and extent of the problem of “Sugar Daddies” in their communities

3. The quality of service women receive when reporting cases of sexual violence and abuse at police stations and courts The following were some of the most significant points raised in the commissions: The problem of violence against women

• Many rapes of children take place in the vineyards and orchards when they go and look for fruit

• The poor lighting on farms makes women vulnerable to rape and assault which is very rife; women feel scared to walk at night • Sexual violence and rape against children is a growing problem in all areas

• Because the perpetrators get bail, they continue to commit these acts; other men are also not deterred Sugar Daddies

• Sugar Daddies are a growing problems in all the rural areas

• Poverty, or parents’ ability to provide for all the needs of their young daughters, was the main reason girls had transactional relationships with these men

• Sugar Daddies gave the girls money, cellphones, expensive clothes, toiletries

• In many cases, the parents either knew about the Sugar Daddies or even received money (for the household) from them  

Services at Police Stations

• Many police still don’t take it seriously when women try to lay charges against their physically abusive husbands • Police are slow to respond and hardly come out to farms when women phone to report a case; they always says they don’t have vehicles to available

• Police don’t want to take on cases when women don’t have a witness to corroborate their charge

• When women lay a charge, the police send the women home and promise to come to the house, but never do Women’s undertook to:

• Provide practical and moral support to neighbours, friends and family experiencing violence

• Break the silence surrounding the various forms of VAW endemic in communities

• Practically and collectively address the issue of Sugar Daddies in their homes and communities

• Share relevant information with other women regarding VAW – e.g. how to get a interdict against an abusive partner

• Challenge police about the quality of services they receive in cases of VAW

• Organise area-based campaigns around issues of violence against women

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