[page number of print ed.: 73]

Mr P. Munyanyi, GAPWUZ.


It is estimated that there are about 320 000 farm workers in Zimbabwe. These represent one of the most marginilised groups in society. They are caught up in a vicious circle of poverty from deprived childhood to destitute old age. A major factor in the success of Rhodesian agriculture was the plentiful supply of cheap labour, which was kept cheap because wages were extremely low and conditions of service were extremely poor. Although legislation regarding wages introduced at independence in 1980 farm worker wages still remain the lowest within the formal sector. (The minimum wage for farm workers is now Z$503.00), which is well below the poverty datum level.

Farm workers usually live in cramped compounds of sub-standard pole and dagga (mud) huts. Very few of the compounds have adequate toilets or water supply. Malnutrition and disease thrive in these squalid conditions. Though there have been marked improvements in housing, sanitation and water supply and a marked decline of malnutrition and diseases on a number of farms in the last few years, there is still no legislation regarding living conditions for farm workers.


The Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), introduced in 1990, precipitated galloping inflation, which affected the prices of basic food stuffs. Another aspect of ESAP was the introduction of cost recovery measures in the areas of health and education. The most vulnerable to the hardships of these ESAP measures have been farm workers who are among the poorest of the poor. Social services for farm workers are few and far between. Though the number of schools are increasing, these schools are often unregistered, poorly equipped and staffed with untrained teachers. There are still very few primary schools and hardly any secondary schools in commercial farming areas.

As a result, the rate of illiteracy is very high amongst adults and unemployment is very high amongst the youth that have completed their primary education but have not been able to continue with secondary education. The situation with regard to health facilities is worse than that of schools with only one or two facilities per commercial farming area. The inadequacydearth of recreational facilities has lead to excessive beer drinking among the men and gambling among the women.

It is estimated that about 40 percent of all farm workers are of „foreign" origin from the neighbouring countries of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. As they are neither owners nor renters of land, farm workers have been denied the vote in local government elections until late 1997. In addition, they cannot benefit from the state social services. Though the majority of farm workers qualify for citizenship by virtue of long residence (having resided in this country for a period of more than five years, the majority having come to this country in the 1940’s), they seldom know how to complete the formalities, nor in most cases are they given the time off by their employers to regularise their status. This means that they are unenfranchised and

[page number of print ed.: 74]

unable, for instance, to acquire land in the communal areas or resettlement areas. Farm workers therefore live in fear of loosing what meagre security their employment offers them.


It is estimated that about 100 000 farm workers and their families are going to be negatively affected by the land acquisition programme. There are several ways in which they will be affected:

3.1 Financial

New farm owners may not retain the existing farm workers. This will mean the loss of income and there will be no compensation for loss of employment as there are no legislative provisions to protect employees who lose their employment due to land acquisition. Ironically though, there is a legal provision for workers who lose their employment due to company closure, restructuring or the introduction of new technology. Under the Labour Relations Act the employee so affected is entitled to some monetary compensation. If the company or farm changes hands, it will be the responsibility of the new owner to provide for the employees. The Land Acquisition Act (1992) does not provide for farm workers who lose employment due to land acquisition. In addition, because of legislative loopholes, about half the farm worker population are permanent „seasonal workers" and are therefore not entitled to any terminal benefits such as pensions, meagre though these may be. In addition, the recently established National Social Security Agency (NASSA) pension scheme only provides for those who have been making contributions for more than ten years or those that have reached retirement age. As the majority of those workers have been making contributions have not reached retirement age, they will not be entitled to any pension.

3.2 Social

As has been noted above, the majority of farm workers are the so called migrants. This automatically prevents them from participating in the Government’s land resettlement exercise. In the absence of any programme to resettle farm workers, they are going to be forced to become squatters, it is therefore feared that there is going to be a mushrooming of illegal settlements with all the attendant social ills. In addition, in terms of priority for resettlement, peasants in the communal areas have first priority, followed by war veterans. About half the designed farms will be given to indigenous farmers. Therefore, even those farm workers who are Zimbabweans will not qualify for resettlement under the new criteria for resettlement. This places emphasis on the age of the applicant, their farming skills and the amount of capital at his /her disposal. The majority will not be able to meet one or more of these criteria. In addition, those farm workers who had access to primary schools and health facilities will no longer be in a position to enjoy them. The future of farm workers has therefore not been considered in Government’s land policy.

GAPWUZ carried out a rapid survey on farmwokers affected by land designation. This was through the support from donor organisations such as FES. Half of the total number of workers were interviewed about the current situation of the farmworkers concerning designation, resettlement and current residential status. The survey is not yet complete but already the figures have indicated that most of the farmworkers have nowhere to go and they also need to be resettled.

In response to several questions about what would happen to them should Government go ahead with the land acquisition and redistribution programme;

[page number of print ed.: 75]


indicated that they would have no where to go.


have some places to go


would survive on their own wages.


of those who survive on farm wages think they can go and squat somewhere if possible


said they would go back to their countries of origin


of those who opted for squatting would go with their households


of those having nowhere to go felt they must also be resettled.


We therefore feel that farmworkers should also be considered in this exercise.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | August 2001

Previous Page TOC Next Page