Strong leadership inoculates SAFE from harm during virus crisis

Strong leadership, particularly in a time of crisis, is one of the critical factors that has played a significant role in SAFE successfully negotiating the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the world.

And leadership, as defined by long-standing Skilderkrans Administration Manager, Terecia Chiloane, means that you treat people as equals. You don’t yell at them when they make mistakes but you show them how to perform their duties to the best of their ability, encourage them, and you listen to the people you lead.

SAFE: Strong leadership and a positive attitude have helped Terecia find fulfillment in her job at Skilderkrans a SAFE Citrus farm near Hoedspruit.

“For this to work for everyone, workers and leaders,” says Terecia, “you have to have a positive attitude towards your work and a positive, productive relationship with your colleagues.”

And this certainly is the case at Skilderkrans where Hilary Weyers, Farm Manager and Terecia’s’ employer, has nothing but praise for his “right hand” admin assistant.

“Terecia’s’ consistently positive attitude, her attention to detail and her support for me is most definitely a positive factor in me being able – with my senior staff – to run this farm as efficiently as we do,” says Hilary.

Skilderkrans citrus estate near Hoedspruit in the province of Limpopo is just one of the fruit farms – growing citrus – in the SAFE portfolio that complies fully with ethical labour standards set by the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA). SIZA in turn, is aligned with best practice codes established by the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP).

“I decided,” says Terecia, “on the day that I was employed in 2009 by SAFE, that I was going to enjoy my work no matter what challenges I faced. And I have done so. I don’t get up in the morning and dread the day ahead. In fact, I look forward to working and I have done so since I was first employed here.

Terecia, who was windowed in 2016, has four children, one of whom, Thabiso (29), is employed at Skilderkrans as a tractor driver.

Her other children are Kelly Thabo (31) Omphile (12) and “laat lammetjie” Tebogo who is 11-years-old.

Terecia describes Hilary as a leader, not a “boss.”  

“He treats people as his equal, supports and encourages those who work for him rather than undermining them as some so-called bosses do.”

Terecia is a graduate of the Tshwane University of Technology. She qualified with a National Diploma in Office Management and Technology in 2014. Her first job after qualifying was as union official at the South African Equity Workers Association in Johannesburg followed by her appointment as Assistant Secretary at Batau Farming.

In keeping with SAFEs’ policy of upskilling staff when possible, Terecia was recently trained at the Hlokomela Clinic at Skilderkrans to test employees for coronavirus infection. “SAFE has been a wonderful employer as far as protecting workers from infection by the coronavirus is concerned,” says Terecia. “We have been supplied with all the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and sanitiser that we need.”

Most farmworkers live on the farm and those that come from nearby are only allowed to travel in “approved and sanitised” transport.

The decision by SAFE to improve working conditions on the farm by building accommodation for single men and women workers has paid dividends in terms of limiting staff contact with “outsiders.”

Married workers such as Terecia live in a nearby township. This is not the first time that SAFE has moved to protect the health of farm employees. For many years there have been regular visits by a mobile clinic, and on-site HIV Aids testing.

Skilderkrans has a worker training center and at least 12 people who started as manual labourers are now in senior supervisory or operational positions on the farm.

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