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Breakthrough in farm negotiations

Clanwilliam farmers are the first to budge by offering labourers an increase of R105 to R110.

De Doorns farm workers went on a rampage over salaries on 6 November 2012. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - A small yet potentially significant breakthrough has come in the chaotic farmworkers strike in the Western Cape.

Some farmers in the Clanwilliam region on Tuesday agreed to increase labourer wages.

The industrial action has been dragging on since last Wednesday and has been characterised by violence and intimidation.

Labourers in the Clanwilliam area have agreed to accept a pay hike of between R105 and R110.

But the settlement was soured by the death of a man in De Doorns, allegedly at the hands of police.

Apparently the 25-year-old man was shot with rubber bullets and then beaten by officers who were patrolling the volatile Stofland Informal Settlement outside the Hex River Valley town earlier this week.

Building and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa)'s leader Nosey Pieterse said the exact circumstances surrounding the incident is unclear.

"I just know he was shot in a shop or in the vicinity of a shop."

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is probing the man's death.

It now remains to be seen if the main employer body Agri-SA will return to the negotiating table following this breakthrough.

Meanwhile, farmers in the strike-hit town of Grabouw have been forced to put out veld fires caused by striking workers.

Farm manager Cathy Shaw said arsonists have been starting the fires.

"Even though workers are back at work and its all peaceful back on the farms, there's a criminal element running around and trying to create as much havoc as possible. We are going to be negotiating more with the trade union."

She said all 50 of her workers have returned to their posts.