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Western Cape farmworkers gather to resume strike

Sapa

Farmworkers have started gathering across the Boland in the Western Cape to resume their strike over labour issues.

Ceres farmworkers at the Nduli township. (David Harrison, M&G)

Farmworkers' Strike Coalition spokesperson Mario Wanza said workers had already formed a group in Ceres, Citrusdal and Zolani in Ashton on Tuesday morning.

Workers and community members were expected to meet at an open sports field in De Doorns at 10am.

"There have been no incidents of violence that I know of," he said.

In Worcester, a group of people danced, sang and burned tyres early in the morning.

Worcester police spokesperson Captain Mzikayise Moloi said the fires were extinguished and the situation was in control.

Farmworkers wanted a daily wage of R150 and better living conditions.

Table grape harvesters started protesting in De Doorns last month, where most workers were earning between R69 and R75 a day. The protests spread to 15 towns, resulting in the death of two people and destruction of property.

Farmworkers suspended the strike to allow for the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) to look at the sectoral determination for agriculture.

Calls for peaceful protests
They announced they would resume the strike on Tuesday after Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it would be impossible to meet the workers' December 4 deadline, by which they had wanted their demands addressed.

Oliphant said the sectoral determination was put in place in March this year and legally could only be reviewed again in 12 months. The department would continue with public hearings aimed at contributing to a new sectoral determination.

On Monday, Oliphant called for peaceful protests, saying violence had no place in a democratic society.

She said farmers should continue talking to workers to try and find a resolution to their grievances.

People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) said about a third of some 10 000 workers in De Doorns had been able to go to work on Tuesday morning.

"The majority are striking and some have opted to go to work. It seems like it's been peaceful," Passop director Braam Hanekom said.

"There have been one or two very isolated incidents of intimidation but by and large, the community's rights to go to work weren't infringed."

Security
Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer last week said all security agencies in the province were on standby and ready to deal with any eventuality.

The provincial government had set up a hotline for people to report unrest or plans to cause violence or destruction.

The 24-hour hotline, on 0860-142-142, could also be called to find out which areas and roads were affected by protests. – Sapa

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