Zille warns of Cape Marikana

Helen Zille says she was warned Marikana-like protests would spread to the Cape.

A police vehicle overturned during violent farm protests in Wolseley on 14 November 2012. Picture: Graeme Raubenheimer/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Helen Zille was tipped off a month ago that the kind of protests seen in Marikana in the North West would be spread to the Western Cape, the province's premier said on Wednesday.

Zille briefed the media at the Disaster Risk Management Centre in Bellville on Wednesday.

The operations room has real-time cameras monitoring blocked roads and hotspot areas.

The premier expressed deep concern about the violent protests that have spread throughout the Western Cape.

She said she attempted to address the tip-off of imminent violence.

"I received a tip-off that there were plans to bring Marikana to the Western Cape. We had long discussions with the organised agriculture sector. We sought to establish who was behind it. I know that the police received that tip-off as well."

Zille also called on Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to return home from an international trip to resolve the dispute.

Oliphant is in Geneva for a conference and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is acting as Labour minister.

Oliphant's office said there was no need for this, as Motshekga had been appointed to stand in for her, while other officials were also dealing with issues related to the strikes by farm workers.

Farm workers in the Western Cape are demanding their daily wage be doubled to R150.

Oliphant's spokesperson, Musa Zondi, said there would be a review of minimum wage levels in the sector. But he said this would take time.

"Sectoral determination can never happen in two weeks, or just like that. The minister is also saying that the ongoing negotiations happening now should continue. These processes should run parallel - one should not supersede the other."

Western Cape farm workers have agreed to suspend their protest over wages and living conditions for two weeks.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has consulted with workers and they have agreed to return to work on Thursday.

The suspension is on condition that the sectorial determination for agriculture is looked at by the Employment Condition Commission next Wednesday.


Motshekga said it was critical that farm workers, unions and employers approached wage negotiations aimed at ending the chaotic strike with sober minds.

On Wednesday, government announced notice will be given for the current sectoral determination for minimum wage of labourers, be cancelled so a new one can be set up.

This would see workers being paid more.

Motshekga said all relevant parties need to be part of this process.

"It's a process that has to be entered into, and that's why you have to get the sectors to meet. You cannot just make declarations unilaterally."

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the protests and violence seen across parts of the Cape this week were related to service delivery issues and not just labour disputes.

A number of areas were affected by violent strike action and several farms were torched by angry demonstrators.

On Wednesday, a 28-year-old man was killed in a police operation in Wolseley.