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Police brutality on farmworkers probed

IPID and HRC will investigate police brutality and farm crimes relating to the ongoing farmworkers strike.

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

CAPE TOWN - The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is said to investigate alleged police brutality during the violent farmworkers strike in the Western Cape.

Earlier this week a De Doorns man died from his injuries after allegedly being shot with rubber bullets and beaten by police.

While the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) announced a partial suspension of the protests in areas where wage deals have been struck, the strike continues in other parts of the Western Cape.

There is no end in sight for the strike in De Doorns.

It still resembles a war zone after a settlement was reached in another farming region.

Earlier in the week, unions rejoiced when a farm owner in Clanwilliam agreed to give labourers between R105 and R110 a day.

A section of the N1 running past the volatile Stofland Informal Settlement outside De Doorns is virtually unusable.

Piles of rocks need to be moved before motorists can navigate the road.

The HRC is worried the violence has reached crisis proportions.

The death of Letsekang Thoakoane has prompted the HRC to probe alleged police brutality.

Thokoane's brother Atang said he can't understand why he was attacked by officers if he wasn't even a farmworker.

"He tried to run away and the police chased him, beat him and shot him."

The Independent Police Directorate (IPID) is probing the incident.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Agriculture Department said culprits and union leaders must be held accountable for the destruction of a fruit packing plant outside Wellington.

The facility, which housed fruit for export, was torched in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Western Cape Agriculture spokesperson Wouter Kriel said, "This establishment provides employment for over 500 people and the Western Cape government sees this in a very serious light. The MEC said the government will work with police in order to create a safe environment for our work force."

It's suspected the incident can be linked to the farm workers strike.

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