Workers accuse Athol Trollip of abuse, racism

2016-02-29 07:00

Former staff claim that Athol Trollip and his family perpetrated human rights abuses on their farm

Athol Trollip and his family have been accused by their former workers of allegedly perpetrating human rights abuses, being racist and using unfair labour practices on their family farm in the Eastern Cape.

Seven former farm workers and their relatives have made statements accusing the Trollip family – including Athol, the DA federal chairperson and mayoral candidate of the hotly contested Nelson Mandela Bay Metro – of mistreating them while they were employed at Mount Prospect farm near Bedford.

City Press obtained copies of the statements submitted to the SA Human Rights Commission this week.

Trollip denies all the allegations.

Although the complaints are directed mainly at Trollip’s late father, Douglas, some workers allege the abuses continued when Trollip took over.

Vusumzi David Kota (57) worked for Trollip’s grandfather Athol senior; his father, Douglas; and Athol junior between 1975 and 2005 – when Athol sold the farm. Athol was in charge of Mount Prospect from the 1980s, Kota said.

Kota claimed that the Trollips called him a “baboon” and “a monkey”.

“Douglas and even Athol Trollip would call us baboons if you did something wrong at work,” he said. He said Athol Trollip would say: “Wenze izinto zobumfene [You acted like a baboon].”

He said Athol was better to work for than his father because he did not chase workers away and was sometimes “nice and chatty”.

Now living in Pola Park, outside Bedford, with his two children, Kota claims he worked from 6am to 6pm and was paid R200 a month until Trollip sold the farm. His wife, Eunice, who worked for Trollip as a domestic worker, died after a short illness and is buried there.

Kota claimed that when he stopped working at the farm, Trollip gave him R15 000, saying the money was for him and his wife’s pension for the time they had worked for him.

The best thing Trollip did for him, Kota said, was to organise a temporary house for him after his roof was blown off by a tornado in 2014. Now when he sees Trollip, he gets angry.

“I don’t know how he can be a mayor of any town when he could not be a mayor of his own farm. The houses we lived in were not in good condition. We did not have toilets. We had to use the bush,” he said.

He also claimed they were forced to address Douglas Trollip as “master”.

Regina and Timi Ntabeni

Timi (78) and Regina (76) Ntabeni also used to work on the Trollip’s farm. Regina was a domestic worker, while Timi was a tractor driver.

Regina claimed Athol Trollip called her imfene (baboon) when he asked her to find a spice bottle in the kitchen and she couldn’t locate it.

“He then said: ‘Uyimfene noba dana? [Are you a baboon or what?].’”

They allege they received nothing when they left the farm and now face eviction from their four-room house in Pola Park. Timi said all they wanted was for Trollip to acknowledge his past and maybe help them buy a house of their own.

Another complainant, Zibele James Mxaku (81), said he was born at Mount Prospect farm, which was later merged with the nearby Daggaboer farm.

An emotional Mxaku spoke of how he was employed at the age of 14 or 15 in the late 1940s and was given maize and R1 a month as wages. Mxaku claimed Douglas fired him and he was forced to leave his livestock behind.

“I owned about eight cattle. I left all of them there. I was chased like a dog and police were called on me. I had inherited the cattle from my father,” he said.

Senzi Ntsendwana (70) claimed she was forced to leave school at the age of 14 to work for Trollip’s parents as a domestic worker.

“When he got married, I was already working there. I continued working there when the couple had their first child, a daughter, and in later years, a son [Athol].

“What hurts me is that even when I see him today here in Uitenhage, he would not say anything. This is despite the fact that I raised him and looked after his home. We just greet each other walking past,” she said.

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