A policeman has been injured by a stone thrown by a protesting farm worker in Ceres, Western Cape police said on Tuesday afternoon. The officer suffered a head injury and was admitted to hospital, said Lt-Col Andre Traut. He was in a stable condition. “The Western Cape police are dealing with several unrest situations relating to the wage dispute by farm workers, and currently 14 areas are potentially affected,” Traut said in an e-mail.
“The focus is however on De Doorns, Ceres, Robertson, Prince Alfred Hamlet and Somerset West.” Traut warned the public to exercise caution in rural areas and to avoid areas where there were signs of unrest. Police would remain in the affected areas and “take the necessary action against any acts of violence or unrest”. Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was due to meet farm worker representatives in Worcester at 4pm on Tuesday and then head to the Stofland informal settlement in De Doorns to address workers. Workers have been protesting since last week over work conditions and their wages. They are demanding R150 a day. At least 10 people were arrested in the area on Monday for public violence and intimidation. The Witzenberg municipality, which Ceres falls under, was preparing a report on incidents in the area. Employer body Agri Wes-Cape said that intimidation of farm workers and producers should end immediately. Police earlier denied allegations that they attacked a marching group of people in Nduli and Prince Alfred Hamlet.
The Workers International Vanguard Party alleged that police attacked marchers, who in turn retaliated by burning police vehicles. Agri Wes-Cape CEO Carl Opperman called on farmers and workers to talk to each other directly about grievances rather than relying on “so-called leaders”. “We are asking the leaders in government to hold the so-called leaders of farm workers, who bus people in to create ‘critical mass’ for protest action,” he said. “The tactics of intimidation, violence and fear which women and children are exposed to, is a clear indication of the manner in which union leaders are working.” The Black Association of the Agriculture Sector (Bawsi) said many farmers were guilty of intimidating their employees.
Bawsi president Nosey Pieterse said they had been travelling through De Doorns since early on Tuesday morning “rescuing” workers from farmers. “We have been marching through the farm roads in De Doorns to pick up those workers who called us, saying they were intimidated by farmers and threatened with evictions,” he said in a phone interview. “We travelled 10km by foot with a Nyala (armoured police van) in front of us, and about 1000 workers joined us.” He said he had received “frenzied” calls from police in Ceres asking him to intervene in labour matters there. He would be travelling to the area later in the day. Pieterse said he had received reports of farm worker strikes in Riebeek-Kasteel, Citrusdal, Piketberg, Grabouw and Villiersdorp.