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Strikes, boycott calls 'economic sabotage'

Jan 10 2013 14:46 Fin24, Sapa

Striking farmworkers in the Western Cape. (Nardus Engelbrecht, Sapa)

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Cape Town - Calls for illegal strikes and international sanctions on agricultural products are a form of economic sabotage and it is therefore necessary to prosecute individuals in their personal capacity for these calls, said Jaco Schoeman of the Ad Hoc Group for the Protection of Property Rights, an informal grouping of organisations in civil society. 

The labour unrest that began on Wednesday is the unfortunate result of individuals in the Western Cape who promote their own short-term political ambitions with threats and public statements, Schoeman said. 

In the process of promoting their own self-interest, human lives are at stake and property is damaged. 

Calls for illegal strikes and international sanctions on agricultural products are a form of economic sabotage and it is therefore necessary to prosecute individuals in their personal capacity for these calls, said Schoeman. 

He said these individuals were members of Cosatu and the ANC in the Western Cape, who whipped up communities against each other with a view to the 2014 elections and to strengthen their own positions in the process. 

Last week Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the trade federation would call on the international community to boycott South African agricultural products, because they were produced in "slave labour conditions". 

"We are also calling on a mandate from the international community to boycott the products of those farmers who do not want to enter into decent negotiations with their workers," he said. 

The Cape Chamber of Commerce slammed the calls for an international boycott of export fruit as irresponsible. 

Individuals who made themselves guilty of a form of economic sabotage, irrespective of their positions, should be held personally liable where human lives are at stake, and face criminal prosecution for any damage to property, said Schoeman. 

"Therefore we call on members of the civil society to provide material as evidence of offences contained in Act 33 of 2004: Protection or Constitutional democracy against terrorist and related activities Act to members of the Ad Hoc Group for Property Rights for possible further action," he said. 

In May 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) was responsible for damages caused during a march by security guards in Cape Town in May 2006. 

It found the Regulation of Gatherings Act afforded victims effective recourse when a gathering became destructive and resulted in injury, loss of property, or life. 

The ruling would force unions to keep better discipline at marches, pickets and strikes. 

It was welcomed by the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as Business Unity SA. 

Western Cape farmworkers went on strike over wages late last year demanding R150 per day, a coherent land reform programme and better working conditions.


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