Force behind De Doorns protests unknown

Many farm workers in the Hex River Valley complain about their living conditions. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN
Tuesday saw a second day of unrest in De Doorns as farmworkers blocked the N1 highway and torched vines, demanding better pay. Aletta Gardner reports.
|

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape agriculture officials on Tuesday insisted that a third force is behind the destructive farm workers protest in De Doorns.

On Monday, 30 hectares of vineyard were torched when farm workers took to the streets which resulted n at least least seven people getting arrested.

Hundreds of people believed to be farm employees or job seekers blocked the N1 highway between De Doorns and Touws River before dispersing late in the day.

Workers are demanding a wage increase.

On Tuesday, demonstrators shut down the farming town and began protesting again.

Shops and banks closed as protestors took over the streets.

A farmer was arrested for attempted murder for firing shots at protestors.

Police fired rubber bullets at protesters after they pelted stones at patrolling officers.

Negotiations between strike leaders and farmer representatives facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) will resume on Wednesday.

Tensions also ran high as protestors called for CCMA officials, community leaders and farmer representatives to get out of negotiation and address them, after waiting for more than three hours.

Western Cape Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg said rogue elements are clearly at play.

“I am quite sure that it is not the farm workers involved in this strike, its people from Stofland and other areas. I am sure there is a political motive to this strike as well because nobody wants to take responsibility for the strike, and no one wants to come forward and speak to us.”

Protestor and farm worker Lunga Yanda said, “The people who organised this don’t want to come out. Since we started these negotiations there was no third force so I cannot say whether there is a third force.”

One protester has told Eyewitness News they want their daily wage to be doubled to R150 as they were battling to make ends meet.

“We want R150. We’re getting R70 a day, that money is not enough for living.”

Non-government Organisation, Women on Farms, rubbished suggestions that a third force is behind the De Doorns farm workers strike.

Women's on Farms project's Colette Solomons criticised those who claimed a third  party is involved.

“There is no third party. We have talked to the workers and they have told us themselves that this has been completely spontaneous.”

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)