'Violence won't help striking farmworkers'

Western Cape Agriculture MEC has sympathised with low wage earners but says violence is not the answer.

Police keep an eye on farmworkers who protest in Wolseley on 9 January 2013. Picture: Regan Thaw/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg on Thursday said the violence which has marred the farmworkers' strike in the province would do nothing to revive wage talks.

Dozens of people were arrested and at least four others injured on Wednesday in some farming communities during clashes with police.

Striking workers are demanding a R150 daily wages. Many currently earn R69.

This is the third wave of industrial action to have hit the farming sector in the Cape over the past several months.

Van Rensburg expressed concern about the ongoing 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."

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

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

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

The chairperson of the Grabouw Civic Organisation, John Michaels, condemned the incident.

Several protesters were arrests.

In De Doorns a section of the N1 was closed after protesters threw rocks on the road.

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.

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the province last week called for a boycott of fruits exports, saying farmworkers were being exploited.