16 November 2012

South Africa: Farm Worker Protests Continue

Photo: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Police on standby (file photo): The strike which began among grape-pickers in the Hex River Valley turned and resulted in a confrontation with police.

Johannesburg — Protesters looted shops and set buildings alight in Swellendam in the Hex River Valley in the Western Cape, police said on Friday.

"We have received reports of unrest and torching of businesses, but the situation is under control," Western Cape police spokesman Lt-Gen Andre Traut said.

Traut said police officers were monitoring the situation.

According to news reports on Friday morning the situation in the area was tense and roads were blockaded with rocks and burning tyres.

eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) reported that shops were being set alight, protesters looted a bottle store and a butchery was torched in Swellendam on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Damage to the bottle store was estimated at nearly R120,000 while the butchery was looted and goods worth about R30,000 were stolen.

The N2 had again been blockaded with rocks and burning tyres.

According to eNCA, police had to use rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesters.

SABC radio reported that tensions were high in De Doorns as farm workers continued with their wage strike. Several people had been arrested for allegedly intimidating others from going back to work.

Earlier this week, workers agreed to suspend the strike on condition that the Employment Condition Commission look at the bargaining council for agriculture by next Wednesday.

Protests about wages and living conditions started in De Doorns last week and had spread to 15 other towns in the Western Cape by Wednesday.

The protests started with table grape harvesters, who wanted to be paid R150 a day. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day.

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