Rubber bullets fired at striking farmworkers

2013-01-09 12:41

De Doorns - Police fired rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of striking farmworkers in the Western Cape on Wednesday, the first clashes of a year that looked set to be dominated by fractious labour relations.

Strikers set up barricades of burning tyres on the N1 highway 100km east of Cape Town and pelted passing vehicles with stones, according to a Reuters reporter.

Scores of riot police backed by at least one armoured vehicle responded with volleys of rubber bullets to keep the protesters from the roadside.

South Africa saw waves of labour unrest last year that began in the platinum mining industry and swept through the trucking and agriculture sectors.

Minimum wage

The farmworker strike in the Western Cape follows a similar walkout in December in which warehouses were set on fire and at least two workers died in clashes with police.

The farmworkers, many of them seasonal workers employed to pick and pack fruit on farms, want their minimum daily wage of R69 more than doubled to R150.

"We are struggling. It is very difficult to survive on R69 a day. School is starting and we don't have money for school clothes," said Lena Lottering, 35, a mother of three.

"There is no food on the table and my children often go to bed hungry."

Another worker, Aubrey Louw, 47, told Reuters he had worked on the farms since the 1970s when he received R45 a day.

"Now we get R65. What is that? We want R150. Farmers would rather employ security guards and buy new cars than pay us," he said.

When talks to avert the strike broke down this week, union leaders blamed the intransigence of the white farmers.

"We have been met with naked racism and white arrogance," said union leader Nosey Pieterse, general secretary of the Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa.

  • cecilia.vanderwesthuizen.5 - 2013-01-09 12:48

    And so the trouble starts! Nothing can be done in peace.

      thandiwe.ngema.71 - 2013-01-09 15:38

      We must not erode the exports and tax inflows that our farmers provide us. I am proud of South African farmers. At the same time I feel sorry for workers on such low wages, but I think there must be better ways of dealing with these issues. I have no more respect for COSATU who seem to love stoking violence. There is nothing democratic or fair about the violence stoking COSATU..

  • peter.fraser.92754 - 2013-01-09 12:51

    Replace the rubber bullets with something that is more permanent. Why must we be held at random by thugs? So they pelt innocent passsing motorist with stones.Soon the road will be closed again and we must spend hundreds of rand and time taking byroads to get pass De Doorns. Government should for a change take charge instead of sitting in comfortable offices picking snot, far away from the country's problems.

      freddy.vandermerwe.7 - 2013-01-09 12:53

      That would be a dream come true !

      bones.mathambo - 2013-01-09 13:54

      Who is WE PF?

      TSR01 - 2013-01-09 14:19

      bones.mathambo, motorists (black & white & colored & asian), as well as the farmers and everyone else being "blackmailed" into giving in to the farmworker's terrorist demands. "Give us what we want, or we will burn, break, and destroy everything!" - TERRORISTS

      peter.fraser.92754 - 2013-01-09 15:16

      Dear double bones, WE...the motorists that need to get through De Doorns to do our work which allows us to feed our families without using any violence.

  • mario.v.calcagni - 2013-01-09 12:52

    funny how the N2 now runs close to De Doorns

      pagel.trivia - 2013-01-09 13:00

      Clearly need to update my GPS maps.

      emm.emm.58 - 2013-01-09 13:17

      They must have been using the new maps on apple IOS 6

  • Tiyani - 2013-01-09 12:55

    There we go again...

  • duane.vanvuuren - 2013-01-09 12:57

    "We are struggling. It is very difficult to survive on R69 a day. School is starting and we don't have money for school clothes," said Lena Lottering, 35, a mother of three. Fair enough! That's very little to live on and raise a family, but you should have thought about that before having THREE children. And hurling stones and whatnot at innocent passers by is not winning you much brownie points and sympathy with the general public either.

      Erna - 2013-01-09 13:44

      Agreed - we all have to live according to our means. I know people who have only one child (or none) because they cannot afford it! You don't get paid according to the number of children you have, or maybe in SA you do?

  • bbooyse - 2013-01-09 12:58

    If I was driving on the N2 and my car was pelted with stones, I would have felt justified to open fire on my aggressors. #just saying

      bbooyse - 2013-01-09 13:10

      ...Especially if my loved ones are in the car.

  • Judy - 2013-01-09 13:06

    Funny thing is why is it just WESTERN Cape. Arent the wages the same everywhere. This is purely political to make DA held areas look bad.This could have been stopped by the big boys in ANC but they "Like it". Too bad its the economy and the innocent that suffer

  • impi.masondo - 2013-01-09 13:07

    these crimes against workers is illigel they must redistibute land

      maylani.bezuidenhout - 2013-01-09 13:16

      Why? They can't eat the land? Do you think they know how to farm it productively? Wish things were that easy.

      Brian Dorning - 2013-01-09 13:32

      Hahaha, you have no clue! Do yourself a favour and research what has happened to the farms that have been redistributed already? 98% failure rate within the first year! The successful 2% were already established black farmers. Government is the sole largest owner of land in SA, why not get the ANC to give some of its land away for redistribution?!?

      mofstok - 2013-01-09 13:33

      Just a troll, don't feed.

      dimitri.tsafendas - 2013-01-09 13:40

      True masondo, this people must take over these farms and run it as a consortium with compensating anybody because it is afterall their land!

      oistar.tutu.9 - 2013-01-09 14:04

      @bones. Funny that you refuse to hear that our forefathers are also our ancestors and they were here about the same as yours

      mofstok - 2013-01-09 14:05

      @bones: the western cape land was never yours, or your forefather's: it belonged to the Khoi-San.

  • bee.deekay - 2013-01-09 13:07

    The anc and alliance are terrorists.Always have been, always will be. They perpetrate economic terrorism under the guise of protest actions. Nothing new. These are activities in order to break the economic grip European-Africans have on the economy. Why aren't we fighting this terrorism when it is taking place subtley right under our very noses?

      mofstok - 2013-01-09 14:13

      Shut up bones.

  • Bob - 2013-01-09 13:07

    Only rubber bullets? 'Tis a pity.

  • nardus.jordaan - 2013-01-09 13:08

    If you dont have money to maintaine a household, dont make children (that's why I dont have children, and of course the reason that the woman that I would have married was murdered end of last year)......Stop blaming your employer for not being able to pay for your kids needs, it's not their responsibility, it's yours....

      riekie.koekemoer.3 - 2013-01-09 15:01

      Nardus,I was once told by a person like bones, that the land will never let him starve. (Ek dink dit is die algemene opvatting by baie mense.) Sit and wait and the land will produce!!!

  • maureen.churchill.9 - 2013-01-09 13:08

    Only pay them for the weight they pick. No privileges at all. Only fair way of paying for a days work, the harder you work, the more you get paid.

      Mary Milne Archibald - 2013-01-09 13:34

      Basic set plus by weight no other benefits

  • dimitri.tsafendas - 2013-01-09 13:12

    So now people are being denied their right to protest? Whats happening in the Western Cape, why is Zille behaving like she owns that part of the land? does she think Western Cape is an Island?

      bee.deekay - 2013-01-09 13:15

      Sir, you are a moron, there's a difference between protesting and burning, looting and destroying. Seems you people in your country don't have the intelligence to know the difference.

      gerald.parker.3956 - 2013-01-09 13:22

      What has Zille to do with the srike I would call you a complete idiot but I cannot because you have some parts missing to be one

      Brian Dorning - 2013-01-09 13:25

      How would you feel if some person(s) protested against you and burned/damaged your property? IDIOT! No one is denied the right to a peaceful and unarmed protest, it becomes illegal when lives and property are at risk of injury or damage!

      kortbroek.duplessis - 2013-01-09 13:38

      No they have a right to protest, but they don't have a right to block public roads and put others lives in danger by throwing rocks at cars. In WC we love law and order but hate thugs like Tony Erinreich and his little pawns

      oistar.tutu.9 - 2013-01-09 13:41

      Zille does not think the WC is an island. But there are a lot of us who sure do wish it were. Anyway who are you when the sun shines?

      indianajohn - 2013-01-09 13:44

      I can't believe we're still having this conversation. If, after the last protests, people still can't see the difference between a protest and vandalism, then they must be incredibly thick. The latter will get you exactly what you deserve: nothing.

      duane.vanvuuren - 2013-01-09 13:56

      Sooooo, I'm upset with someone else/party/group. I protest and it happens to be near your home. I hurl stones and bricks and bottles and whatever else I can get my hands on at you and or your loved ones (while they're innocently going about their day). You're telling me you're not going to be upset about that, mate? Ja, I thought as much...

      oistar.tutu.9 - 2013-01-09 13:57

      Dimitri is incredibly thick. He has never been employed by anyone but himself. That alone says alot about his caliber.

      conradiedaniel - 2013-01-09 14:35

      One cannot simply make a couple of signs and go running around protesting. You need to inform the municipality that you are going to strike beforehand. These riots are unannounced (even though we all knew they would occur) and therefore the police have full right to shoot on sight.

  • xanavin.vonbuchenroder - 2013-01-09 13:12

    Why throw passing vehicles??? What do the passerby's have to do with the strike. Bloody barbarians.

  • KallieHBal - 2013-01-09 13:14


  • stephan.stemmett - 2013-01-09 13:17

    Why destroy what is bringing in money for you? These people obviously do not realise if they destroy the farms and the warehouses in which they work there will not be any jobs for them to go back to, then where is the R69/day coming from? Farmers are paying according to the government so why destroy the farms and warehouses?? If they want to be upset with someone be upset with the government and go and destroy the government's buildings!!

  • dekkeranton - 2013-01-09 13:22

    This is purely a party political action. Yes, we all agree, R65 a day is shameful, but in the far north of Limpopo there is recent documented cases of blatant child labour, and family breadwinners being paid R250 per month plus a bag of mieliemeel. Where are the political activists that are so concerned about farm workers human rights? Is it because it is a political stronghold of one specific party that the rights activists give Limpopo a miss? The plight of farm workers in the country should be treated as a whole, and not just a stick to whip political opponents with. Farm workers in the Western Cape, although poor, are still better off than most other in the country! R65 per day, equates R1625, to plus free accommodation, free water, free electricity, free food, free transport, free training, free clothing and free schooling for children, like most farmers supply, and suddenly the picture looks a bit different. That said, it is still shameful that anyone in South Africa can earn such a disgraceful salary!

  • hcduplessis - 2013-01-09 13:30

    In the next few months or so food prices will go through the roof,which will lead to another strike.2013 will be a year no one will forget.

  • dlayani.tivani - 2013-01-09 13:31

    I don't blame the FARMERS here , but the Government must fulfil their promise ! Government must come to the Table . We r not stupid they think we can blame the Farmers noo ! Strikers must not damage the Farm property here ! But face the Government

  • chris.devos.758 - 2013-01-09 13:31

    How can the Government allow workers to do things that leads to an Highway Road to be CLOSED......This is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE!!!!!!STOP IT!!!

  • wil.dwest.351 - 2013-01-09 13:32

    Isn't De Doorns near the the N1? Looking at Google maps it's nowhere near the N2.

      tersia.louw.12 - 2013-01-09 22:10

      De Doorns IS on the N1, nowhere near the N2; somebody made a boo-boo.

  • rob.bayliss.94 - 2013-01-09 13:36

    There can never be a rational discussion about wages until ALL perks for all employed people are completely unbundled....including ALL public servants. Treat everything as taxable income, R65 per day becomes something else entirely when all the perks, such as accomodation, are unbundled. Use the New Zealand model, everything is visible and everything is taxable.

  • luckyz.matyolo - 2013-01-09 13:37

    Killing of strikers are alike an ordinary death as we experience in Marikana farm workers you are next come March pnp employees are next etc.

      dimitri.tsafendas - 2013-01-09 13:43

      Its sad when people die for demanding a small percentage of what is rightfully theirs by birth.

      oistar.tutu.9 - 2013-01-09 14:05

      what is rightfully theirs by birth? Nothing is rightfully anyone's by birth unless it has been bequethed

      Brian Dorning - 2013-01-09 17:52

      What is rightfully theirs by birth? R150 a day? Or the land? Just to remind you, everyone in SA that is not Khoi San is an alien here...furthermore some farmers there are 19th generation, they have been farming that land since before Australia was born as a country!

      tersia.louw.12 - 2013-01-09 22:11

      Dimitri, why would anyone use a pseudonym of a man who'd completely lost touch with reality? Tsafendas was loony tunes...

  • rollingstone.kanyane - 2013-01-09 13:48

    it is easy farmers should just destroy all the farms get passport start a ew life elsewhere in other countries and leave them to die of hunger and the same anc, cosatu will never employ them

  • pskaiy.walker - 2013-01-09 14:05

    Eish, the reporter must be using an Apple iPhone map - N2 is nowhere near De Doorns.

  • Brian Dorning - 2013-01-09 18:03

    Food prices will go up by 20%, thanks strikers

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