The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) has threatened to take President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and Labour Court for retrenching workers at his farm.
Sowetan reported on Monday that a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak and “bad trading conditions” had forced Ramaphosa to retrench 22 of his 46 workers at his Ntabanyoni farm in Mpumalanga.
Fawu’s Mpumalanga secretary Ernest Mmako told IOL that the union will undertake a fact-finding mission at the farm.
‘Battle against retrenchment’
He said, “We will mount a battle against that retrenchment and should it be that he has already implemented that decision, we will be left with no other option but to approach the dispute resolution institutions, your CCMA and ultimately the Labour Court.”
Labour federation Cosatu, which is a key ally of Ramaphosa, also took a dim view of the retrenchment.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla expressed regret that it took place at the President’s farm and urged him to find alternative employment for the affected workers.
Pamla said, “We hope that this is not the end and measures need to be explored, and he should work with these people to find them alternatives.”
‘Where’s the compassion?’
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Deputy President Floyd Shivambu also criticised Ramaphosa on Twitter on Wednesday.
He wrote, “This can’t be true… a sitting a president of a country with crisis levels of unemployment, who’s alleged to be a billionaire can’t even keep workers for a little bit longer until the problems have passed. Where’s the compassion and appreciation of [the fact] that our people are in crisis?”
The affected workers expressed disappointment at losing their jobs. One of them, Mhlonipheni Nkosi, urged Ramaphosa to reconsider.
“We understand the situation, but you know the President is [too] big to fail. I wish he can find ways to give us back our jobs because we are young and we need to feed our families,” he said.
The President breeds the rare Ankole cattle, which he imported from Uganda, at the farm. The breed is well known for its iconic long horns.
The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development first issued an alert in early November about a case of foot-and-mouth disease that had been detected in a cattle herd in Molemole, Limpopo.
It subsequently discouraged “all gatherings of animals from more than one source,” including livestock auctions, until the extent of the outbreak is determined.
Agricultural organisation Agri SA warned this week that the nationwide ban on livestock auctions is putting a strain on farmers’ finances.