W.Cape farm protests continue

Some Western Cape farmworkers are still protesting for better salaries and living conditions.

Many farm workers in the Hex River Valley complain about their living conditions. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - There were small pockets of protests in various rural communities of the Western Cape on Thursday morning but with no reports of serious violence.

Police said the situation remains volatile and officers were still monitoring areas where unrest occurred earlier in the week.

Protests in Swellendam and De Doorns were brought swiftly under control, while another in Riebeek West had died out.

A small demonstration was still underway in Bonnievale.

At the same time, the wife of a Wolseley farm owner said she has heard reports farmworkers are set to march to the town's police station later.

Hundreds of striking labourers went on the rampage on Wednesday, looting shops, burning tyres and pelting police with stones.

Farmworker Michael Daniels was killed during the violence.

Protestors blame police for the unrest, saying they used force prematurely to disperse a peaceful demonstration.

One farm owner's wife, who asked to remain anonymous, said all is calm in the centre of town.

But she said there is still an air of volatility in the outskirts.

"There is still a very strong police presence. They are trying to keep the situation under control."

Meanwhile, the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said farmworkers feared they would be victimised once they returned to work.

The union's Atwell Nazo said despite Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson's calls for workers to suspend strike action for two weeks, workers remain fearful they will be cheated out of their wages if they return.

"They are highly reluctant of going back to work. They fear farmers will victimise them following the violent protests."

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille warned the agricultural sector stands to lose millions of rand following the mayhem.

Strikers are demanding an increased daily wage R150. They are currently earning up to R90.

At least 2,000 farms have been affected by the strike.