Striking farmworkers loot supermarket

Police are on high alert after Western Cape farmworkers started looting shops.

Striking farmworkers allegedly looted shops during the first day of their indefinite strike on 9 January 2013. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Police are monitoring the situation in Pine View in Grabouw after striking farmworkers began looting.

Earlier on Wednesday, demonstrators blocked the N2 Highway and allegedly stoned vehicles before police moved in to disperse them.

They are demanding a R150 daily wage.

Dozens of protesters stormed a supermarket at the Pine View Centre and made off with whatever they were able to grab.

When police arrived at the scene, a shot rang out, forcing the crowd to flee.

Within moments several police officers were seen running into the store, their guns drawn.

The chairperson of the Grabouw Civic Organisation, John Michaels, has helped to organise the protest.

Michaels has condemned the incident.

"Whenever criminality is taking place, the police must act on that. Currently the leadership is trying to prevent people from looting."

He says the entire Pine View community supports the farmworkers' demands for a better living wage.

Meanwhile, several arrests have been made since the indefinite strike broke out.

Police cannot confirm exactly how many arrests have been made but a spokesperson says between 30 and 50 people have been apprehended in Somerset West, Ashton and Citrusdal for looting and public violence.

In De Doorns a section of the N1 has been closed. Rocks and burning tyres litter the road.

Earlier scores of people were seen fleeing in all directions as smoke bellowed into the air.

Protesters say police opened fire on them unprovoked but officers say strikers started hurling rocks at them.

In November, two people were killed and vineyards torched when farmworkers embarked on an illegal strike.

They were demanding better salaries and improved living conditions.

At the same time, there are reports police have opened fire on protestors in De Doorns.

Four people have reportedly been shot with rubber bullets but police have yet to confirm this.

Earlier the N1 near De Doorns was closed following incidents of stone throwing.

Activist Nosey Pieterse says he was among those shot.

"I've been shot at my whole body but the shot on my elbow is the most painful one. I'm getting cramps on my hand."