Off the Map – Farmworkers in Southern Africa: some partly Historical Thoughts on their Invisibility and Vulnerability

September 2001
Robin Palmer (Oxfam GB Land Policy Adviser), Paper at the Southern African Regional Conference on Farm Workers’ Human Rights and Security, Harare

Summary: Covers the author’s surprising lack of knowledge of farmworkers; the extensive labour migration in Southern Africa in the 20th century, but the lack of concern about citizenship or nationality then; the historical vulnerability, isolation, and invisibility of farmworkers; the current tightening of borders, increasing xenophobia, greater vulnerability of farmworkers, and failure of government attempts to improve things, that farmworkers have been largely ignored in new land reform programmes, with Zimbabwe illustrating the dangers of this, and the possibility that forced evictions could escalate dangerously.