Five De Doorns striking farmworkers arrested

Police moved swiftly to arrest violent protesters taking part in the widespread industrial action.

Police arresting striking farmworkers in De Doorns on 10 January 2013. Picture: Malungelo Booi/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape police on Thursday arrested five people that took part in the indefinite farmworkers protest in De Doorns.

Police also used rubber bullets to disperse protesters who had started a fire.

It is the second day of the province-wide farmworkers strike where labourers are demanding, among others, a R150 daily wage.

Police officers took no nonsense from protesters.

They fired at a group who tried to invade a farm earlier.

They also fired after workers started setting vegetation alight in the town.

Scores of protesters moved in small groups everywhere while all roads were littered with rocks.

A private security chopper surveyed the town from the air.

Western Cape Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg called on protesters to refrain from violence.

Van Rensburg expressed concern about the unrest.

"I'm very much aware of the plight of low wage earners in the agriculture sector but I don't think this unprotected strike is the solution to the problem."

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

The industrial action started in De Doorns before quickly spreading to other farming towns.

They were demanding better salaries and improved living conditions.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) supports the strike as it believes farmworkers are being exploited.

Meanwhile, the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said it could not say whether its members were behind the violence that has characterised the farmworkers strike.

Union leaders were in De Doorns to meet with the workers.

They have been running battles between police and protesters in the town throughout the day.

Officers have had to divide themselves in groups as the demonstrators are scattered all over the farming community.

Fawu leaders said several protesters were arrested by police for no reason.

However, they said their members would not back down until their demands were met.