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Farmers must step up to end strike

Jan 17 2013 18:18 Sapa
Striking farmworkers (Supplied)

Striking farmworkers (Supplied)

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Cape Town - Western Cape farmers need to offer something tangible to their workers to halt a strike over wages and land, a trade union said on Thursday.

Part of the 'hard-sell' to workers should be to sell a concrete tangible such as the commitment to genuinely negotiate, including processes for 'ball-park' figures or an understanding of an improved offer, Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu) general secretary Katishi Masemola said.

He said the union noted the call by Cosatu in the Western Cape on Wednesday for a week-long suspension of the strike. Workers want a coherent land reform programme and a daily wage of R150.

"We believe workers must be consulted and canvassed with, as we cannot treat them like a tap to be switched on and off," Masemola said.

He called on farmers to make meaningful individual commitments to higher wages with their workers.

The strike started last year and was suspended in December. It resumed last Wednesday in various towns in the province.

Since then, there had been at least 20 complaints of brutality by workers against the police, farmers, and private security companies. The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was probing reports of police brutality, racism and inhumane living and working conditions.

SAHRC officials were visiting the affected areas, including De Doorns, to gather information on the cases and help people lodge complaints.

On Monday, spaza shop worker Letsekang Tlokoane, 25, died when he was allegedly shot with rubber bullets in De Doorns.

The same day, a 10-year-old girl was apparently shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.

Masemola called for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to investigate Tlokoane's death and place all witnesses in a protection programme.

"The life of an innocent person... cannot be regarded as cheap, especially given allegations that he was ‘kidnapped’ from a spaza shop he was working at, assaulted, shot point-blank range, and dumped in a ditch."

Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said he had received from the SAHRC numerous cases involving the police, mostly of assault and the use of rubber bullets at close range, which were being investigated.

Police were also investigating the torching of the Sandrivier Estate fruit packing warehouse outside Wellington in the early hours of Wednesday.

Estate owner Jan le Roux told Sapa the warehouse went up in flames around 2:30.

"We packed plums there, with about 220 crates of plums a day or 500 000 cartons a season, which is about six months," he said.

"We have already organised new pack houses where we will pack for the season. About 300 to 350 people worked there and they will keep their jobs."

The estate was built in 1996 as part of a job-creation exercise, following discussions with then water affairs and forestry minister Kader Asmal.

Le Roux said police were trying to determine who was responsible for the fire.

farmworker protests  |  farms  |  wages


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