Zille's De Doorns visit disrupted

2012-11-08 15:58
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De Doorns violence continues

Farm workers in De Doorns, Western Cape, continued their violent strike on Wednesday night. See the pictures.

Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille left De Doorns after a small crowd of people became rowdy during her walkabout in the protest-hit area on Thursday.

Zille rejected radio news reports that she had to flee for her own safety from the farm workers.

"I spoke to the people and there was no sense of running away, no sense of fleeing."

Zille and provincial Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg had been walking door-to-door in Stofland, an informal settlement in the town where most of the disgruntled workers lived.

While there, Zille was asked to address a group at a nearby soccer stadium.

The small crowd she was speaking to was initially friendly, but then some of them started chanting the name of expelled African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema.

This growing group then started intimidating the others by dragging them away.

"It was terrifying intimidation for the people who were trying to speak to me," Zille said.

"The people said they wanted to work and the worst aspect is that children can't go to school."

Zille decided it was best to leave and she would return when the situation was not as tense.

Volatile

According to Van Rensburg's spokesperson Wouter Kriel, Zille earlier met the Table Grape association and the police.

"They have reached a point where they can solve the issues and [where] tensions have been resolved and normality can return," Kriel said.

Workers had gathered on the N1 since Monday. Various protests over labour conditions have resulted in the setting alight of vineyards, and a number of arrests.

The N1 between Touws River and De Doorns remained closed on Thursday as a precautionary measure because of ongoing protests in the area, Western Cape police said.

"The situation in De Doorns is still tense and potentially volatile, and it is being monitored," Lieutenant Colonel André Traut said.

"Police officers are still deployed in the area to maintain law and order. No incidents of violence have been recorded today."

Kriel said farmers had rejected a wage demand of R150 a day by grape harvesters and that talks were to resume in the Worcester civic centre on Friday. He could not provide any more information.

Van Rensburg, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato and Sport and Culture MEC Ivan Meyer were sent to the town earlier in the week to quell the unrest.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration was brokering the talks.

According to the agriculture department, De Doorns produces table grapes, predominantly for the export market. This industry supports 8 000 full time workers and 8 000 seasonal jobs in the Hex River Valley.

- SAPA

Read more on:    julius malema  |  dan plato  |  helen zille  |  cape town  |  agriculture  |  labour  |  protests
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