Damage counted after farm protests

Protesting farm workers have caused damages estimated at R500,000 in the Witzenburg municipality, Western Cape

This is according to municipal spokeswoman Anette Radjoo.  

“Property damage has been sustained including the destruction of a packing shed, veld fires, damage to farming crops, burning of tyres in streets and throwing of stones,” she said.

The police had erected roadblocks, detours and barricades in areas for the public’s protection. A policeman suffered a head injury when he was hit by a stone thrown by a protesting farm worker in Ceres on Tuesday. He had to be admitted to hospital, said Lt-Col Andre Traut. He was in a stable condition.

Farm workers in the area have been engaged in a wage dispute since last week.

They are demanding a wage of R150 a day and better working conditions.  

Traut said the largest disruptions were in De Doorns, Ceres, Robertson, Prince Alfred Hamlet and Somerset West.  

Ten people were arrested for public violence and intimidation on Monday.  

The Transvaal Agricultural Union of SA (Tau-SA) advised its members not to pay workers less than the minimum wage.   “The problems of De Doorns cannot be made the problem of the entire agricultural industry,” it said.

“We encourage workers to seek work and to accept service where they receive the best salary.” 

Employer body Agri Wes-Cape said that the intimidation of farm workers and producers should immediately end.

Police denied allegations that they had attacked a marching group of people in Nduli and Prince Alfred Hamlet.

The Workers International Vanguard Party alleged that police attacked marchers, who in turn retaliated by burning police vehicles.

Agri Wes-Cape CEO Carl Opperman called on farmers and workers to talk to each other directly about grievances rather than relying on “so-called leaders”.

“We are asking the leaders in government to hold the so-called leaders of farm workers, who bus people in to create 'critical mass’ for protest action,” he said.

“The tactics of intimidation, violence and fear which women and children are exposed to, are a clear indication of the manner in which union leaders are working.” 

The Black Association of the Agriculture Sector (Bawsi) said many farmers were guilty of intimidating their employees.

Bawsi president Nosey Pieterse said they had been travelling through De Doorns since early on Tuesday morning “rescuing” workers from farmers.

“We have been marching through the farm roads in De Doorns to pick up those workers who called us, saying they were intimidated by farmers and threatened with evictions,” he said.

“We travelled 10km by foot with a Nyala [armoured police vehicle] in front of us, and about 1000 workers joined us.” 

He said he had received “frenzied” calls from police in Ceres asking him to intervene in labour matters there.  

Pieterse said he had received reports of farm worker strikes in Riebeek-Kasteel, Citrusdal, Piketberg, Grabouw and Villiersdorp.