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R8,2m in damages caused by farm strikes

Damages caused during the farmworker protests are estimated to be in the region of R8,2m.

A protester confronts a farmer in a bakkie while others (unseen) block the main road in Swellendam with burning obstacles on Thursday, 15 November 2012 during widespread unrest among farm workers that started in De Doorns in the Western Cape and since spread to other towns in the area. Picture:Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA.

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Agriculture officials said on Monday BEE farms suffered about R8,2 million in damages because of farmworker strikes.

Last month farm labourers in at least 16 small towns across the Western Cape embarked on a two-week long strike demanding their wages be doubled to R150 a day.

Two people died during the violent protests where shops were looted and hectares of land destroyed.

While labourers have since returned to work, those involved in the matter are still trying to come up with solutions.

The Department's Wouter Kriel said, "We've got a 60 percent success rate target regarding agriculture empowerment projects in the province. When these farms suffer damages it is of great concern to us."

He said, "There are approximately 200 agriculture projects, which the Department of Agriculture is involved in. 14 of these projects suffered damages."

Farmworkers went out on strike again on Tuesday last week.

Workers did not want to wait months for a new sectoral determination.

Trade unionists said if farmers did not come up with a better wage offer soon, the strike could continue indefinitely.

Negotiations to resolve the dispute have been unsuccessful despite interventions by the Labour Minister and the Department of Agriculture.