Hope for farmworkers

Farmworkers seem to be a little more at ease after a breakthrough in negotiations.

Striking farmworkers gathered in Pineview, Grabouw, to protest for better wages on 9 January 2013. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Overberg police said on Wednesday they will continue to conduct visible patrols in areas where farmworkers are striking.

On Tuesday five protesting labourers were arrested in Barrydale for public violence.

They were caught leading a group of protestors, attempting to block part of the R324 Highway.

The police's Clarence Jonas said, "They are being kept in holding cells at the Swellendam police station. They will appear in court on Thursday."

An uneasy calm settled over the De Doorns area.

Negotiating a section of the N1 running past the Stofland Informal Settlement near De Doorns is not easy as piles of rocks have made the road virtually unusable.

Apart of that, the area seemed quiet.

Armoured police vehicles were strategically stationed along the highway and officers remained in riot gear, at the ready for any eventuality.

Amid the chaos, some labourers could be seen working in the region.

Building and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa) leader Nosey Pieterse said he intends meeting with police bosses to discuss, among other things, the death of a man who was apparently shot with rubber bullets and beaten by police officers.

The Western Cape Health department said it has attended to at least 13 people who have been injured since the unrest began last week.

Last year two people died from strike-related violence in the Cape Winelands region.

Meanwhile, Labour Department will go to the strike-hit town of De Doorns on Wednesday evening for a public hearing on minimum wages for farmworkers.

De Doorns has been the epicentre of the violent mass action.

Labourers are demanding a R150 daily wage, but workers in Clanwilliam have agreed to accept a wage hike of between R105 and R110.

This after wage talks for all concerned parties deadlocked last year.

The Labour Department said the Clanwilliam wage deal would be put to the test at tonight's public hearing in De Doorns.

The department's director general, Nkosinathi Nhleko, said the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) would use the Clanwilliam model during negotiations elsewhere.

His spokesperson Mokgadi Phela said: "I think the reason it will be put to the test is to determine whether they are likely to lower their demands, considering that they (some labourers) are making it clear that their demand stands at R150."

The De Doorns hearing is a third in a series, following a request by unions.

Meetings will also be held in Robertson, Oudtshoorn and Vredendal this week.