Storehouses, tractors set alight as farm protests turn violent in Kirkwood

2018-06-06 19:54
Firefighters battled to contain a number of fires that flared up during protest action in Kirkwood. (Supplied)

Firefighters battled to contain a number of fires that flared up during protest action in Kirkwood. (Supplied)

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At least three tractors and two citrus storehouses have been destroyed as protest action by hundreds of citrus farmworkers in the Addo area, in the Eastern Cape, turned violent.

On Tuesday evening, a group of about 200 workers blocked the route R336 extension leading to Moses Mabhida area, in Kirkwood, with stones and burning tyres.

The workers have been protesting since last week over wages and poor living standards, and have frequently barricaded roads.

The situation has also resulted in the South African National Parks issuing advisories, warning tourists not to travel through Addo when visiting the Addo National Park, South Africa's third largest national park.

The park advised that the shop and restaurant had been closed, as staff were being intimidated and stopped from attending work.

ALERT: Addo Elephant National Park's main gate remains inaccessible to visitors due to protests

Police spokesperson Sergeant Majola Nkholi said only three suspects, aged between 22 and 30, had been arrested after a case of damaging essential infrastructure was opened.

Nkholi said on Tuesday evening that police had received reports of attacks on orchards.

He said police had confirmed that at least one orchard store had been set alight and three tractors had also been torched on Tuesday evening.

Firefighters working hard to extinguish a fire at a citrus storehouse. (Supplied)

At least one other warehouse was set alight on Wednesday.

Nkholi said no cases had been opened yet, so he was not able to confirm the actual number of buildings affected, but said there were several that had been damaged or destroyed.

Tense situation

He said the situation was currently very tense, with a number of breakaway groups trying to gain access to orchards and warehouses.

Firefighters battled to contain a number of fires that flared up and prevent them from spreading to the citrus orchards, as protesters set packing crates alight in the fields.

Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga also issued a stern warning to violent protesters in Kirkwood.

"We view these actions as opportunistic criminal elements that are going to be dealt with harshly".

Nkohli said the situation was being closely monitored by different units, with a high police presence in the area.

He said motorists were advised to avoid driving towards Moses Mabhida area.  

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