Tongaat to cancel farmers’ contracts over child labour

By Morris Bishi

CHIREDZI – Tongaat Hullet Zimbabwe will with immediate effect cancel all contracts with outgrower farmers who use child labour.

This is a major step that the sugar giant has taken to ensure that child labour is stopped in the sprawling cane fields of the lowveld. Continued use of child labour can result in Zimbabwean sugar being blacklisted on the international market.

A contract distributed to farmers last week and seen by The Mirror says Tongaat will terminate all relationships with sugarcane farmers who employ children on their farms.

Tongaat spokesperson Addelaide Chikunguru could not be reached for a comment by the time of going to Press

A representative of the farmers however, said his members will only sign the contract after a roundtable meeting with Tongaat. He said that he received the contract but there was no prior consultation before it was circulated hence the need for the meeting.

“Child labour is a violation of fundamental human rights and it hinders children’s development potentially leading to lifelong physical and psychological damage. It is the exploitation of children through a form of work that denies them their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school and is mentally and socially harmful;

“In line with the latest draft of the sugarcane milling agreement, the farmer and the miller shall commit themselves and comply without exception with the fundamental principles forbidding the engagement of children (worst form of child labour) in any commercial activities involving the production of sugarcane, sugar or associated products on farms, sugar mills, factories or any other facilities owned and or controlled by farmers”

The contract says that failure by any farmer to comply will result in membership of the Zimbabwe Sugar Association being withdrawn. The farmer will not be able to access inputs such as fertilizers, fuel and herbicides. Access to tillage, haulage and extension services will be cancelled.

Mkwasine Sugarcane Farmers Association chairman Rt Col Dennis Masomere confirmed receipt of the contract but said the contract will be signed after a meeting with Tongaat.

He said that there was fear among farmers that if not scrutinised carefully, the contract may be used to manipulate or punish farmers.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) a child means any person under the age of 18 years of age. ILO which Zimbabwe is a member prohibits the use of child labour.

The move comes after various reports of rampant child labour especially by sugarcane farmers in Mkwasine Estates. Using of child labour is cheap to farmers as the youth are sometimes given food as payment.

The Mirror