Calm returns to De Doorns

2012-11-15 22:24
(Picture: Johan Cloete, News24 user)

(Picture: Johan Cloete, News24 user)

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Johannesburg - The situation was quiet in De Doorns on Thursday, following days of protests by farmworkers, said Western Cape police.

"I haven't heard reports of anything happening this evening," said Lieutenant Colonel André Traut.

Earlier, about 400 farmworkers marched to the Wolseley municipal offices to meet community leaders and the police following unrest over wages.

The march came after a call by the government and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday to suspend the strike for two weeks pending a review of a bargaining council agreement.

Workers agreed to suspend the strike on condition that the sectoral determination for agriculture be looked at by the Employment Condition Commission next Wednesday.

Protests about wages and living conditions started in De Doorns last week and had spread to 15 other towns in the Western Cape by Wednesday.

The protests started with Table grape harvesters, who were calling for wages of R150 a day. Most earned between R69 and R75 a day.

The main road in Wolseley, Voortrekker Street, was the scene of violent protests on Wednesday.

A stand-off between police and protesters resulted in the death of 28-year-old tractor driver Michael Daniels.

The Cape Times reported that Daniels had been walking past protesters to get to the shops.

Farmworker Deon Conradie told the newspaper a senior police officer gave the order for officers to open fire.

"She said 'skiet die goed vrek' [shoot the things dead]. We got frustrated with police and some protesters threw stones and swore at them," Conradie said.

He said the crowd ran when shots were fired.

An unnamed Wolseley resident said the police had warned protesters about firing live ammunition, and that protesters had initially tried to negotiate with the police.

A second group of protesters had come from another direction and started throwing stones at the police, who responded by firing rubber bullets.

"They turned a police vehicle on its side. A farmer came down over the bridge with his bakkie. The same guys started throwing stones at the bakkie," the resident said.

"The 82-year-old man [the farmer], Tienie Crous, was hit in the head and arms. He's in Ceres Hospital in a stable condition."

A local resident helped the elderly man from his car and got him away from the crowds.

"After a while, a policeman told a resident to tell the protesters that they must please just move back and stop throwing stones because they don't have rubber bullets."

The group retaliated by throwing stones. Police fired a few shots to protect themselves, he said.

Municipal officials earlier this week put the damage caused by protesting workers at over R500 000.

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