"After visiting three farms, Minister [Membathisi] Mdladlana was impressed with the commitment of the resettled farmers. In one case a black farmer who now owns 250 ha of land and employs 74 people has developed the land much more than the previous owner. Also, contrary to what is believed, there are white farmers in Zimbabwe who are patriotic and want the land reform to yield some positive changes," spokesman for the department of labour, Snuki Zikalala, told IRIN.
Sikalala added that on his return to South Africa Mdladlana would impress upon the government the need to assess how land returned to people under the country's own land reform programme had been used.
"The visit to the farms was a learning curve for the South African delegation. What was evident was that the land that was given to resettled farmers was not left idle," Sikalala said.
Mdladlana has been on a four-day visit to the country for talks with the government aimed at regulating the status and working conditions of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants working on South African farms.
It is estimated there are currently more than 10,000 Zimbabwean illegal immigrants working on farms in Limpopo province in the north of the country alone.
Zikalala said: "Discussions have centred on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two governments which would ensure that Zimbabwean farm workers in South Africa benefit from the country's minimum wage policy therefore eradicating the exploitation of cheap foreign labour. Of course, farmers would have to prove that they had first sought South African labour before employing any foreign labour."
Following the signing of the MOU between the two countries, farmers would have to comply with the newly introduced minimum wage of R800 per month (about US $93) in metropolitan areas and R600 (about US $70) in rural areas as from March this year.
The departments of labour and home affairs first tried to phase out illegal Zimbabwean farm workers in the Limpopo province about four years ago.
The exercise followed complaints from farm workers' rights activists that farmers shunned local labour in favour of cheap foreign labour.
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