WC farm chaos continues

The situation across the Western Cape farming sector remains volatile on Wednesday evening.

Protesting farm workers march through the De Doorns town centre on 6 November 2012. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The situation across the Western Cape farming sector remains volatile this evening, with police officers stretched to the limit, calls for the army to be brought in and questions around President Jacob Zuma's silence on the ongoing violence.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson on Wednesday said protests and violence seen across parts of the Cape this week are related to service delivery issues and not just labour matters.

A number of areas have been affected by violent strike action since last week.

The protests are being led by farm labourers.

But the minister said many unemployed people have joined in on the action.

"There are 16 towns out on strike, these are not just farmworkers, other communities are complaining about housing."

At the same time, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is set to publish a notice to cancel the existing sectorial determination of minimum wages for farmworkers.

Joemat-Pettersson said the notice will be submitted soon.

"I think the minister will first publish, hopefully by next week Friday or earlier, a notice indicating the intention to call on all interested parties to comment on the possibility of the review of sectorial determination."

Strikers are demanding a pay increase of R150 for a day's work.

They are currently earning between R70 and R90.

MILITARY HELP NEEDED

Western Cape police management said its officers are stretched thin as they try to deal with the violence.

Deputy Police Commissioner Sharon Jephta said about 2,000 farms have been affected by the unrest.

She added the military has also been urged to lend equipment.

"We have requested their resources in terms of the helicopters so that we can get into all the affected areas."

Six South African Police Service (SAPS) members have been injured in clashes since Monday.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on Wednesday called on Zuma to intervene.

Speaking at a briefing in Bellville, she appealed to Zuma to intervene immediately and deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to help the police.

She added Zuma's silece on the issue was not helping the situation.

Zille claims her previous attempts for help went unanswered.

JOB LOSSES

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said a series of strikes in the sector will lead to job losses.

The chamber's President Fred Jacobs said the unrest will do nothing to help negotiations aimed at ending the two-week long strike.

"The chamber acknowledges the right to negotiate for a better living wage. You can't just suck a number out of the sky and determine what should be paid. We have to find out what the competitive wages are in the rest of the region."