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Farmworkers need more than wages

WC ANC Leader Marius Fransman says wage issues are just one of the problems farmworkers face.

Western Cape ANC leader Marius Fransman. Picture: Chanel September/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The leader of the African National Congress in the Western Cape said on Wednesday farmworkers have more grievances than just wage issues that need to be addressed.

Marius Fransman spoke to Eyewitness News about last week's violence in 16 farming towns where two people died after sustaining injuries during the protests.

Farmworkers are demanding wages of R150 per day as opposed to the R70 many of them are currently receiving.

Although Fransman said he was not interested in petty 'politicking', he took the chance to take a swipe at some Democratic Alliance (DA) MEC's.

"The problem in the Western Cape is that we're sitting with the MEC of agriculture, who is a farmer, we're sitting with Theuns Botha, who is a farmer. It is very difficult for them to actually reflect on the reality of the interest of farmworkers."

Fransman said although national government sets the minimum wage, many farmers are taking advantage of that and don't pay a living wage.

He added there are several other reasons fuelling the workers' unhappiness.

"Evictions, for example when the Extension of Security of Tenure Act was introduced they started to mow down houses."

Fransman said a seminar will be held in a week's time to address farmworkers' grievances.

Meanwhile, Agri-Wes-Cape said negotiations regarding the review of minimum wage for farmworkers is expected to commence on Thursday.

These are the first set of talks since disgruntled labourers from farms in the Boland, Robertson, Ceres and De Doorns went on the rampage last week in which two people died.

In some areas vineyards were torched and roads blocked with burning tyres.

Agri-Wes-Cape's Portia Adams said, "We're glad that what is on the table is being discussed and that the department of labour is taking charge of this issue because it is in their domain."

She added that these talks are crucial.

"We're waiting to see what progress is going to be made. Wage issues are a national issue. We are comfortable with our representatives being a part of that process."