Since she entered the work world at the age of 16, Western Cape farm worker Corina Kana has struggled to make her meagre rands stretch as far as possible so that every hungry belly in the family is fed.
“We were eight children in the house,” she recalls.
“Since then I had four sons, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.”
Kana, 66, picks fruit on farms in Simondium, near Paarl but says life is difficult because her wages are insufficient.
At the moment, she is at home because the work is seasonal.
“The minimum wage won’t be enough. I think it is very little. The R20 an hour is still good though because at the moment, we get between R15 and R17 an hour.”
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) Bill was meant to be implemented on May 1 but has been postponed for an unspecified period “to allow the parliamentary process to run its course”, according to a recent labour department press release.
Under the NMW law, employers will have to pay their staff at least R20 an hour, except for sectors such as farm/forestry, domestic and expanded public works, that have been given a longer transition period to pay R18, R15 and R11 per hour respectively. This will be adjusted to reach the NMW within two years of implementation.
Kana says R15 buys a loaf of bread, which doesn’t go very far because in the community, they help each other out when times are tough.
“I have to look after all these people. They come to my house and are looking for a piece of bread. It’s not right.”
She can’t afford to maintain her home.
With her weekly wages, she buys small packets of pap, a few vegetables and some chicken.
Meat has become too expensive and she misses the time when they could eat chops.
Sometimes, when it’s harvesting season, the workers can take home a few peaches, plums, grapes or lemons.
She suspects that, when the national minimum wage is implemented, employers will simply hire fewer workers and reduce the hours they work every day.
“If you are working on a target and you don’t meet it, then you have to leave,” she says.
“I don’t know what farmers are going to think about this [minimum wage].”