Zille sounds the alarm on farm worker protests

2012-11-14 14:10

As Western Cape farm workers continue to protest, the province could become rife with anarchy, premier Helen Zille has said.

The DA leader said in statement that she had sent ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman an SMS detailing her concerns.

The SMS read: “We are heading towards anarchy. 1000s of jobs will be lost and an industry potentially destroyed. I am receiving horrific reports of farm worker intimidation. (Labour Minister Mildred) Oliphant must be recalled from abroad and begin negotiations on the national minimum wage with all stakeholders.

“It is essential that we remove politics from this matter and stabilise the situation. That is the call you must make. I am extremely worried that lives are in danger and that people will retaliate.”

Zille said later in the statement that Fransman had to distance himself from alleged incitement in the province by Cosatu.

Last Wednesday, Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said talks about the protest had to find a way for workers to get decent wages.

“The ill treatment and underpayment of workers by some farmers must stop, otherwise we will see a Marikana in De Doorns,” he said.

Freedom Front Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said yesterday the party would ask the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate the “correctness” of statements attributed to Ehrenreich.

According to Groenewald, Ehrenreich allegedly told farmers: “There is already blood on the farm workers and unless it stops, there will be blood on the farmers of these farms.”

Yesterday Zille said she asked President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the De Doorns farm workers’ wage dispute and had called for the defence force to get involved.

Farm workers continued protests in the Western Cape and burned tyres this morning while police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd.

Police spokesperson Constable Lybey Swartz could not confirm this, saying no reports had reached the Western Cape media centre.

Farm workers in the area started protesting last week in demand of a R150-a-day wage and better working conditions.

Last Thursday, Zille was heckled by supporters of expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema while visiting the area.

She had to be escorted away by police when her entourage was pelted with stones by the striking farm workers.


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