Some members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi have expressed concern that commercial farmers in Ghanzi are increasingly exploiting Basarwa children, as government faces difficulties in curbing child labour in the farms.
“It is worrisome that the exploitation is turning into a worst form of child labour, as the children are denied access to both education and health facilities,” said Kgosi Mbao Kahiko for Ghanzi West Region. “A majority of the cattle farms, which belong to the Whites, are usually locked, a situation which has made them difficult to be accessed.”
Kgosi Kahiko was speaking during the on-going 9th meeting of Nto Ya Dikgosi.
He said mobile clinics cannot enter the farms to provide medical services to the children and their parents who are hired as farm workers.
“The farmers do not provide medical attention to the children and their parents who are hired as workers. This has led to loss of lives in some cases,” Kahiko said.
He added that it is difficult for government officers to detect that the children are used as farm labourers because it appears as if they are just part of families residing in the farms.
“The children whose parents are hired as farm labourers are used as workers, a development which is contrary to the labour legislation and the Children’s Act of 2009,” Kahiko said.
Kgosi Oreagetse Machilisa for Boteti region noted that exploitation of children in Ghanzi farms is a common practice and has a long history, but government has never done enough to curb the situation. “We have realised that government favours the farmers instead of complying with the human rights conventions it signed.”
He warned that the exploitation of children can taint this country’s image on issues of human rights, saying that during government inspection in the farms, information is sourced from employers and workers and children are never given an opportunity to share their experiences about their life in the farms.
When Ntlo Ya Dikgosi asked about measures that government will put in place to extend labour legislation coverage to the farms, Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Peter Siele, said that “the inspection reports for the Ghanzi Commercial Farms indicate that there is a challenge on compliance to labour laws. The inspectors observed that farm workers are staying with their children in the farms. However, it has proven very difficult for labour inspectors to ascertain whether these children are also employed or not.”
The minister admitted that government is facing difficulties in fighting child labour in the farms and said his ministry intends to host commemorations of Child Labour Day in Ghanzi. He said the event which comes in August 2012 will provide a platform through which the community and farmers can be sensitized about child labour issues.
This paper’s efforts to source a comment from the Director of Ditshwanelo, Alice Mogwe, proved futile as she was said to be out of the country.