Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Minister on her way to De Doorns

Minister on her way to De Doorns November 13 2012 at 04:02pm By Jenna Etheridge Comment on this story INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was on her way to the Hex River Valley in the Western Cape to address table grape farmers and workers. File photo by David Ritchie Western Cape - Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was on her way to the Hex River Valley in the Western Cape on Tuesday afternoon to address table grape farmers and workers. Ministerial spokeswoman Palesa Mokomele said Joemat-Pettersson would have a closed meeting with farm worker representatives in Worcester and then go to Stofland informal settlement in De Doorns to address workers. Workers had been protesting since last week over working conditions and their wages, demanding R150 a day. Many workers had been intimidated into joining the strike. At least 10 people were arrested in the area on Monday for public violence and intimidation. Mokomele said reports of violence in other areas on Tuesday were being investigated. Police earlier denied allegations that they attacked a marching group of people in Nduli and Prince Alfred Hamlet, near Ceres, on Tuesday morning. The Witzenberg municipality, which Ceres falls under, was preparing a report on incidents in the area. Employer body Agri Wes-Cape said on Tuesday that intimidation of farm workers and producers should end immediately. 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 buses 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, is 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 their 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 in a phone interview. “We travelled 10km by foot with a Nyala (armoured police van) 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. He would be travelling to the area later in the day. Pieterse said he had received reports of farm worker strikes in Riebeek-Kasteel, Citrusdal, Piketberg, Grabouw and Villiersdorp. - Sapa IOL News De Doorns farmworkers march 12 November 2012 - 17:50 By Sapa De Doorns farmworkers held a peaceful protest march on Monday afternoon, Western Cape police said. Workers left peacefully at the end of the march, said spokeswoman Lybey Swartz. She said Congress of SA Trade Unions Western Cape head Tony Ehrenreich addressed them and they dispersed afterwards. Swartz said the N1 road remained closed to traffic from Worcester up to Touws River, and an alternative route via Ceres was advised. By 4.30pm, she had not been told whether the road had reopened. Workers in the area have been protesting since last Monday about their working conditions and pay. At times during the protest, they have closed the road and burnt vineyards. On Monday, police arrested 11 people, when a group of around 80, carrying sticks and pangas, intimidated farmworkers and prevented them from going to work. "We took action," said Colonel Andre Traut. He would not elaborate. Breede Valley Ward Four councillor Pat Marran said the police fired teargas and rubber bullets and entered people's houses. Groups of people with knobkerries had gathered in the area and they told the police to leave, he said, adding that the police responded by chasing them. The people then went and threw stones on the N1, closing the road. Afterwards, a meeting was called with the police. Marran said he attended as a community leader. "I convinced the police that I, as a community leader, would calm people, but that the police must withdraw, keep a distance and not provoke action, which they did," he said. The situation was then "calm", he said. He said there was a meeting on Saturday between various parties and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. It was agreed that decisions taken at the meeting would be communicated to people in De Doorns on Monday. However the actions on Monday had made people think the police were trying to stop them. Cosatu in the Western Cape said farmworkers in the region would strike in solidarity with those on strike in De Doorns on Tuesday. "Other farmworkers, seasonal workers and communities will come out on strike and take solidarity action in support of the demand for a living wage of R150 per day," it said. "Marikana has come to farms," it said, referring to a lengthy strike at Lonmin platinum mine, in North West, which spread to other platinum and gold mines in the region. Police opened fire on striking Lonmin workers, killing 34 of them near the mine on August 16. The call to action was to workers in De Doorns, Wellington, and "farm workers across the country". Cosatu said that on Monday morning, unions, community organisations, NGOs and farmworker committees had formed a coalition which would co-ordinate a campaign for better wages and working conditions on farms. It would be headed by Ehrenreich. Hex Valley Table-grape farmers' spokesman Michael Loubser said permanent workers returned to work on Monday. However, some workers had stayed away out of fear about what would happen to them if they reported to work "Ninety percent of the permanent workers are back," he said. The Workers International Vanguard Party claimed workers' low wages were "set by the ANC government, continuing old slaves wages". It claimed that their conditions of work included not being paid at all out of season and not being able to claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Joemat-Pettersson was reportedly going to hold urgent meetings on Monday and Tuesday about the minimum daily wage of R69 for farmworkers. Jacaranda FM "A government that relates to its citizens with violence is no longer fit to govern" Western Cape farmer arrested 08:58 (GMT+2), Wed, 07 November 2012 NATIONAL NEWS - A farmer was arrested after he allegedly fired a shot at protesting farm workers in De Doorns on Tuesday, Western Cape police said. "The farm owner has been arrested for attempted murder," said Lt Col Andre Traut. He said about 8000 farm workers gathered to protest in De Doorns on Tuesday. "The situation is calm. They are slowly dispersing and more police have been deployed to maintain order." Wouter Kriel, spokesman for agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg, said the reasons for the protest were not immediately clear. "There is no specific leadership, and no list of demands... one thing that is very important is to get dialogue going." The N1 highway was closed between Touws River and De Doorns on Monday when farm workers gathered on the road. Over 30 hectares of vineyards were destroyed in the protest. Western Cape police said at the time the cause of the protest was likely a wage dispute, but the agricultural department disputed this. "This is not a labour strike and [is] not organised by farm workers, even though farm workers are involved. It seems to be politically motivated," Kriel said. "There is a lot of intimidation going on. We have a lot of seasonal labour on the farms starting for [the] grape season. We are adamant that it is not traditional workers who are involved, but the seasonal workers." The Congress of SA Trade Unions in the Western Cape said it supported demands by farm workers and residents of De Doorns for a living wage and decent living conditions, with basic services and proper housing plans. "Many of the farmers have been exploiting the farm workers for too long in the agricultural sector, and this needs to come to an end," provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said. "People cannot be expected to live on their knees, whilst the farmers profit handsomely from the exploitation." He called on workers and residents not to resort to violence. The Democratic Alliance said the protest was politically motivated. "It is very clear to me that much of the protest in this area is politically motivated and the local ANC is once again played a large role in inciting the violence and vandalism," said Ivan Meyer, leader of the DA in the Western Cape. "A volatile situation such as this one should under no circumstances be exploited for cheap political gain. The DA condemns such behaviour in the strongest sense." Meyer said the mayor of the Breede Valley municipality, Basil Kivedo, addressed the protesters on Tuesday afternoon. "Through intense mediatory (sic) discussions with all the stakeholders, we managed to defuse today's conflict. "Our swift reaction and leadership proved that it is possible to find solutions through dialogue." Source : Sapa COMMENTS BY SONNY - - The ANC and Cosatu are behind these wage disputes. The threats made by the ANC MK War Vets against governance in the Western Cape have come true. This is all a political diversion against Zuma's woes. The end results will determine Zuma's future in SA politics. Provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich is suffering from 'sour grapes syndrome' after having lost the post of Cape Mayor to Patricia De Lille.

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