Zille calls for SANDF to curb protests

2012-11-14 12:12
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille during her visit to disgruntled workers in an informal settlement called Stofland during a walkabout in the protest- hit area of De Doorns. (Picture: Sapa)

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille during her visit to disgruntled workers in an informal settlement called Stofland during a walkabout in the protest- hit area of De Doorns. (Picture: Sapa)

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Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on Wednesday called for SANDF members to be called into the Hex River valley where violent protests were ongoing as police were "stretched thin".

"I have been in contact with the provincial and national police commissioners calling for the SANDF to be deployed. Police stretched thin [sic]," Zille tweeted.

Earlier on Wednesday, residents set tyres alight in a De Doorns informal settlement.

A road coming off a bridge into Stofland was blocked by a heap of burning tyres, sending a thick black plume of smoke into the air.

A few residents milled around the tyres, with an armoured police Nyala parked nearby.

No violence overnight

Farmworkers protested over wages and living conditions in the verdant Hex River valley last week.

Workers, who earned around R70, wanted R150 a day. The N1 highway leading into De Doorns was closed during the violence, in which vineyards were set alight and stones thrown.

The highway was open on Wednesday morning, with trucks passing through with fruit and other cargo. Fruit stalls and roadside shops were closed.

The portion of the national road past De Doorns was marked with black circles, indicating where police had earlier removed burning tyres.

A few police vehicles were in the area.

At Prince Alfred Hamlet in the Overberg, police fired rubber bullets at a group of about 70 farmworkers who pelted police with stones.

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

Western Cape police said no violence occurred overnight in the farming community.

"The situation is... being monitored by police," De Doorns police station spokesperson Lindikhaya Mkhontwana said. He said various arrests were made on Tuesday.

Workers asked to return to farms

Food and Allied Workers' Union president Attwell Nazo and general secretary Katishi Masemola would later address workers in Ceres and De Doorns. They would hold a meeting at the Ceres taxi rank at 11:30 and then proceed to the Stofland stadium in De Doorns at 13:30.

The leaders were expected to tell the crowd about the government's response to their demands.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson visited the area on Tuesday, where she said she would pass on their grievances to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant. She asked workers to return to farms.

Grape harvesters in the Hex River Valley have been protesting for over a week about their wages, demanding R150 a day. Most earn between R69 and R75 a day, with R80 being the highest and only offer from farmers so far.

According to reports on Wednesday, protests were taking place in 16 towns across the province and several workers had been arrested for public violence.

In Piketberg, on the Cape West Coast, workers gathered outside one of the farms in the area amid a heavy police presence.

They were bussed in or arrived on foot from the surrounding farms in the area.

- SAPA

Read more on:    fawu  |  tina joemat-pettersson  |  helen zille  |  cape town  |  farmworker protests  |  labour  |  protests
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