21 November 2012

South Africa: Western Cape ANC Lays Charge Against Zille

Johannesburg — The ANC in the Western Cape laid an incitement charge against provincial premier Helen Zille on Wednesday afternoon, saying she "fuelled the flames" in recent farmworker protests.

African National Congress provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile, provincial legislature chief whip Pierre Uys and Boland party chair Pat Marran laid the charge at the Cape Town central police station at 1pm.

The party wanted the state to investigate the "intentions" behind Zille's actions during recent protests by farmworkers in the Boland.

"There are clear indications that the Democratic Alliance (DA) played a role in fanning and fuelling the flames during this very unfortunate time," Mjongile said.

"It spread lies, [and] got people who are already overly excited and trigger-happy to resort to all sorts of tactics."

The labour action began in De Doorns at the start of the month when table grape harvesters demanded a daily wage of R150 and improved living conditions. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day.

The protests turned violent and spread to 15 other towns, resulting in two deaths and extensive damage to property.

Workers recently agreed to suspend the strike until December 4 on condition that the sectoral determination for agriculture be looked at by the Employment Condition Commission.

The ANC criticised Zille for her conduct and social networking messages during this time.

Zille said in one tweet that the protest was being fuelled by a rift between seasonal workers from Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

She wrote: "Complex dynamics in De Doorns. Lesotho seasonal workers no longer employed, but Zim workers legally employed due to amnesty. Huge tension."

The party said Zille was not only creating a deeper rift between workers but apparently contradicting a previous statement in which she said a political agenda was the reason for the protests.

She was also attacked for a tweet on Tuesday in which she asked whether Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant had returned from her overseas trip.

Oliphant was out of the country during the protests.

"This proves the disingenuous messages and accusations that inflamed more tensions than assisting to defuse the situation," Mjongile said.

Zille's spokesman Zak Mbhele said on Wednesday that the premier was innocent of any incitement.

"Nothing about what the Premier said concerning De Doorns was incitement; it was simply stating the facts of the situation," he said.

He said the "facts" were that many seasonal workers in that area came from Lesotho and Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabweans were legalised as a consequence of the recent amnesty. This did not apply to the workers from Lesotho.

"There is thus a rift and contestation along this 'fault line'. Farmers have been very heavily fined for employing 'illegal' labour, so they no longer do so."

As a result, many people were left without jobs.

Mbhele said Zille found these facts out when speaking to Sotho-speaking people during an official visit on November 8.

Zille left De Doorns after people became rowdy during her walkabout in the protest-hit area. She rejected reports at the time that protesters had chased her away.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions in the province called on Tuesday for the ANC and opposition parties to table a motion of no confidence in Zille.

She welcomed the call, saying her party would gladly debate it at the first opportunity.

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