Farmers using "dop system" face up to R1mil fine

Cape Town - Western Cape farmers who pay their workers with alcohol instead of giving them a monthly wage can be fined up to a R1 million under the Western Cape Liquor Act which was passed in November last year.

The "dop system", where workers are paid with jugs of sweet white wine instead of money, was outlawed in 1961. However, many wine farmers in the province are still using the outdated system.

The Western Cape Liquor Act provides authorities with the power to heavily fine these farmers.

MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Garth Strachan, said the Western Cape Liquor Act clearly stated that "an employer may not supply liquor to a person as an inducement to secure his or her employment, or instead of wages".

An employee may also not deduct from an employee's wages the cost of liquor supplied or withhold payment of wages in lieu of a debt in respect of the sale or supply of liquor. Any contravention of, or failure to comply with the Act could result in a fine of R1 million.

National African Farmers Union (NAFU) communications officer Hanlie du Plessis said the Act would also have to be properly enforced.

"Communities need to stand up for themselves. They need to make the decision to break with the old habits in order for the individuals, households and ultimately the communities to become healthy again."

She said NAFU believed that the bigger wine estates and role players in the wine industry did not practice the dop system anymore and that the majority of wine farmers placed priority on the well-being and upliftment of their workers.