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The Con Magazine

Working on the farm, living on the margins

Working on the farm, living on the margins

Daniel Sambo, 47, lives in a farm cottage outside Robertson but works as a gardener in town. Jacaranda flowers carpet the streets purple in summer. When they encroach on an employer’s property he sweeps them up. He wears blue overalls and a Nike beanie and has a scar across the bridge of his nose, which set crooked the last time it was broken. Another scar, an embossed ridge of keloid tissue, protrudes above his left eye. He weighs less than 60 kg and can rest his chin on the roof of a parked car without crouching. He earns R130 a day now, R60 more than he earned before he got fired but R20 short of the wage he went on strike for. The new job is easy and he gets left alone most of the time, which is relaxing, he says. But he’d like to work on the farm again: it’s what he knows best and it’d feel more secure – if only it paid him enough.

Land, labour & the grapes of wrath

Land, labour & the grapes of wrath

The farmworkers’ cottages outside Robertson, when viewed from a moving vehicle and a vantage point of sufficient privilege, are easy surfaces on which to project fantasies of rural idyll. Wooden doors open onto small, tended gardens with bougainvillea shrubs climbing the whitewashed walls. The sun is out; laundry hangs drying on wire fences. Barelegged children wave at cars cruising by. A month before harvest season begins the vineyards are mostly empty, stretched out in neat green rows across the landscape. Here and there, labourers in blue overalls punctuate the fields, tending to the vines.