Cape Town - An Atlantis family is calling on the Department of Labour to investigate the death of a farmworker, who was killed on duty.
On October 7, tragedy struck for the family of Ronaldo Keyster, 22,of Atlantis, who had recently become a father to a baby girl seven months ago.
Keyser worked alongside his mother Cathleen Keyster, and his cousin Randall Keyster, on the Klipfontein Farm, in Darling, under the ownership of AF Kirsten.
David Esau, provincial chief inspector for the Department of Labour, said Klipfontein Farm, in Darling, had not reported the incident to their offices.
He said an investigation would follow immediately, after the Weekend Argus made a query regarding the incident.
“My office is not aware of the matter and will engage the employer,” he said.
Esau later confirmed their investigation would take a week to finalise before they could give further feedback.
The Weekend Argus contacted Kirsten’s office several times for comment this week and his secretary promised feedback.
“He is on the farm all day and I did give him the message, and I will give him the message again,” she said.
The foreman, whose name cannot be revealed publicly because he was the driver, referred the Weekend Argus to contact their offices, before putting the phone down.
The SAPS have confirmed that they are investigating a case of culpable homicide.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will also be doing its own investigation into the matter.
SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said he would be carrying out his own investigation on what transpired on the day Keyster died: “When (the driver) was made aware even by the banging and when you go over a hump, you can feel you are going over something, and this person was made aware. We need to bring under the attention of the South African Police and I will be at Darling Police Station tomorrow morning (Saturday) to find out what is happening and what they have done.
“They must investigate this matter, even if a person dies in a car accident, the person is charged with culpable homicide. The Commission will have to act without fear or favour,” he said. “Life is precious, farmworkers, unfortunately, like domestic workers have been seen at the bottom of the line and people think they can do whatever they can do what they want to do, which is unfair, every life matters, even farm workers.”
Local ward councillor Barbara Rass, along with activists, are calling for the exploitation of farm workers to end, and for cases such as this to be reported to the necessary authorities.
Randall witnessed the incident and said his cousin died in his arms.
“Ronaldo was sitting on the ledge of the truck and he had a lemon in his hand, which he was busy placing into his pocket. We had just come from another farm where there were lemons, and we were then at Klipfontein farm,” he said.
“I ran back on the truck and then the truck gave a tug and that is when Ronaldo fell off, landing underneath, and he (foreman) drove over Ronaldo. He stopped several metres away from where Ronaldo was. When I got to Ronaldo, he was still alive for about five minutes in my arms, and then he died,” said Randall.
Cathleen said she was devastated by what happened, and is seeking justice and compensation.
The family leave their home after 6am, to work on the farm, and were allegedly transported on the same truck which had driven over her son.
“His body was taken off the farm and transported to Malmesbury Mortuary, where I had to identify him the following day,” she said.
“I am still working on the farm and we want to take this matter forward because nothing has been discussed with us. He (the employer) contributed R18 000 to the funeral, after my sister made a request.
“He drives up and down this road, but has not come and spoken to me,” said Cathleen.
Armed with payslips and Keyster’s death certificate, his aunt Erica Ohlson said she visited Kirsten’s offices after the incident, to request that he contribute to the funeral, and that workman’s compensation was never mentioned, nor UIF benefits for death, even though the company had deducted those funds, according to his payslip.
“I was at the employer’s office twice before the burial,” she said.
“I left the paperwork, which showed the quotation of R18 000 for the funeral, and I asked how much he could contribute. He had a negative attitude, but later paid for the funeral. I told him that my nephew had died on that farm and that he had a baby,” she said.
“We have received no paperwork regarding workman’s compensation or any mentioning of it, or any acknowledgement by the Department of Labour. They didn't even have the decency to offer their condolences to my sister, and the people who were on the truck, on the day the incident happened, had to continue working despite being traumatised,” said Ohlson.
Councillor Rass said the Human Rights Commission needed to get involved with farm cases.
“We can talk about all the departments that were missing, but the question is whether they were informed about the incident,” she said.
“I challenge the Human Rights Commission to visit farms, and to educate and share information to the people working on farms, about their basic human rights.
“This incident just opened up a whole can of worms and, if this is not receiving attention because a life has been lost, we will be facing more such incidents that can be prevented if each state department does what is necessary,” said Rass.
Community activist Dawood Hendricks, of the Atlantis Black Business Alliance, said: “There needs to be a full investigation on that farm and, if there is a union, the union needs to be brought to justice because the family members were never alerted by the employer, they were alerted by the police that the deceased family member had passed on,” he said.
“What is happening with the case of the driver, and the health and safety officers, who were in charge of the site?” asked Hendricks.
Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk confirmed the incident.
“At the time of the accident, the deceased was transported, with 16 seasonal workers, to the grape vines, on a very bumpy gravel road. The investigation continues,” said Van Wyk.