Joemat-Pettersson defends strike comments

Tina Joemat-Pettersson says she would not want to see farmworkers victimised or arrested.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson briefs journalists in Cape Town on 18 June 2009. Picture: Sapa

CAPE TOWN - Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson on Tuesday said not all the lawless behaviour that marred the recent farmworkers' strike could be regarded as a criminal offence.

In a written parliamentary question, a Democratic Alliance MP asked the minister on what grounds she determined that those involved in the first strike should not be arrested.

Workers were demanding to be paid R150 per day, instead of the minimum amount of R70.

When Joemat-Pettersson addressed strikers in De Doorns in November, she assured them they would not be arrested.

The first wave of industrial action was characterised by intimidation, looting and clashes with police.

Farmland was also torched and two people died in the violence.

Joemat-Pettersson reiterated workers had a right to protest and said in some cases, this would include unacceptable behaviour, which some would regarded as "lawless".

But she emphasised that it did not necessarily make such behaviour illegal.

In her written reply, Joemat-Pettersson said she would not want to see farm labourers victimised or arrested for such behaviour.

However, she was quick to add that where culprits could be identified, the necessary steps should be taken.