Fires break out in De Doorns

2013-01-10 15:41
Tyres burn as a farmworker protest in De Doorns turned violent, and at least 50 people were arrested. (Picture: TSU-Helivac)

Tyres burn as a farmworker protest in De Doorns turned violent, and at least 50 people were arrested. (Picture: TSU-Helivac)

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De Doorns - Smoke was billowing from several points along the N1 highway in De Doorns, Western Cape, where striking farmworkers clashed with police on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear who started the small fires, but a number of people at the scene said they were caused by police stun grenades.

Several police officers were stationed outside one farm where strikers allegedly broke a gate.

Armoured vehicles had been deployed to the N1 highway, with scores of riot police trying to defuse the situation.

The highway has been closed to traffic since the strike resumed on Wednesday.

Thousands of protesting workers taunted the police, pelting them with rocks.

Police fired rubber bullets in retaliation.

The Bawsi Agricultural Workers' Union of SA (Bawusa) claimed nine people had been injured by rubber bullets since Wednesday.

"Pat Marran, the ANC Boland chairperson, was taken to hospital after being shot by private security," said Bawusa general secretary Nosey Pieterse.

Pieterse said close to 6000 workers were on strike in De Doorns. Protests were also taking place in Grabouw and Wolseley.

On Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said 44 people had been arrested.

Workers went on strike last year, demanding that their daily wages be increased from R69 to R150, and they want a "coherent" land reform programme.

At least two people were killed in protests between August 27 and December 4.

Strikers had also allegedly set fire to several farms.

The strike was suspended following an undertaking that negotiations would continue between workers' representatives and individual farmers, but this process proved unsuccessful.

- SAPA

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