Occupiers of “Democratic Left” party offices are detained by police in Athens January 9, 2013.
Greek police on Wednesday said they arrested about 100 people after they tried to re-occupy “Villa Amalia”, a longtime squat popular with anti-establishment protesters and radical leftists. Dozens of protesters occupied the offices of “Democratic Left” to protest police’s move in “Villa Amalia”.
Rubber bullets fired at S.Africa farm strikers
DE DOORNS, South Africa — South African police on Wednesday fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse striking farm workers in the wine-producing Western Cape region who are demanding their daily wages be doubled. Police moved to break up a gathering of around 3,500 people which turned violent in De Doorns, outside Cape Town, an AFP correspondent reported.
The unrest flared up across the province Wednesday raising fears of a repeat of unrest in November that left two dead and destroyed vineyards. “So far a total of 44 people have been arrested on charges of intimidation and public violence,” police spokesman Andre Traut said, adding that a police captain had been injured. A car transporting reporters was targeted by the crowd which pelted it with rocks, smashing the windows and forcing its occupants to flee. The car was later torched. The industrial action follows work stoppages in the mining industry that turned violent late last year leaving more than 50 people dead.
Of those killed, 34 were shot dead by police in one day in scenes reminiscent of apartheid police brutality. Workers who pick and pack fruit on farms in Western Cape have downed tools, demanding a wage hike from 69 rand ($8) to 150 rand ($17.50) a day. Talks between the unions and employers to avert a strike broke down earlier this week. The protesters have also occupied part of the country’s major N1 highway, strewing it with rocks and boulders and clashing with police. Meanwhile local radio reported that protesters in Grabouw, around an hour’s drive from De Doorns, threw rocks and looted shops.
In Wolseley, 60 kilometres (37 miles) from De Doorns, police also kept protesters from entering the town. Some protesters carried signs that read “Agri SA julle is apartheid boere”, slamming the main trade agriculture body as being farmers of apartheid, and “150.00” to push for wage demands. About 40 percent of labourers in the area went to work, said James Cornelius, the regional secretary of the Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa), deploring the low turnout for the strike. “There will be less people going to work tomorrow (Thursday),” he vowed.
Wage negotiations have been complicated because few farm workers are unionised, and talks between individual farms and employees collapsed. Farmers worry the violence will damage production of especially table grapes and stone fruit, though the potential effect on the wine industry is still uncertain. Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said earlier legislation dictates the basic wage may only be reviewed one year after it was put in place. The current level dates to March last year, meaning the next review can only be two months from now.
But Cornelius vowed stoppages would continue until farmers bow to their wage demands. “I think they don’t have a choice because we will strike until we get the 150”, he said, adding that organisers would evaluate their action on Sunday. Two people died during last year’s unrest which started in De Doorns. Damage amounted to between 120 and 150 million rand. The province provides 55-60 percent of the country’s agricultural exports and employs nearly 200,000 permanent and seasonal workers.
Prisoners demand talks with minister
Free State – Groenpunt’s prisoners have threatened to continue burning jail cells if their grievances were not addressed by Minister of Correctional Services S’bu Ndebele. The angry prisoners from the Groenpunt maximum security wing in the Free State went on the rampage on Monday afternoon, setting fire to the administrative block and burning their mattresses and bedding.
On Tuesday morning, Medium A prisoners joined in, also burning mattresses and bedding. Six prison cells were badly burnt during the riot and several were locks tampered with. The department said damage, which amounted to millions of rand, included three administration offices that were completely burnt, destroying furniture and documents. As a result, hundreds of inmates had to be transferred to other prisons.
Deputy regional commissioner Grace Molatedi said they were rearranging things at the prison, a move that would result in maximum prisoners being transferred to ensure they are properly accommodated. Prison insiders told The Star just after 5pm on Tuesday that some of the prisoners had been transferred to Westville and Kokstad prisons. “They said those who were taken had played a role in influencing us into burning the prison,” one prisoner said, adding that they spent the entire day locked up on Tuesday, going out only to collect food from the dining area.
Correctional Services acting national commissioner Nontsikelelo Jolingana said security had been beefed up at the prison. She said extra warders had been deployed to the prison. She said both the SAPS and her department were investigating the incident. Jolingana described the maximum section as a mess. “Police have cordoned off the scene. Violent actions by prisoners will not be entertained by the department.
Charges will be brought against those implicated in this,” said Jolingana. Prisoners told The Star on Tuesday night that they would continue burning the prison cells. “We are going to burn this prison if they don’t listen to us. We are not going to listen to anyone else except the minister (Ndebele),” one prisoner said. The prisoners said their main grievances were the prison’s poor rehabilitation programmes and a lack of medication at the prison hospital. The inmates also claimed many HIV-positive prisoners were denied access to antiretrovirals.
“Sometimes prisoners go for days without getting their treatment. They are treating us like animals. They don’t care if the inmates get sick if they don’t take their medication regularly,” said one inmate. Molatedi said they were not aware that the prisoners had not been getting their treatment on a regular basis. “These grievances were not brought to us. But we know that the prisoners claim there is lack of communication between them and the nurses.
“In terms of health and food, it’s the prisoners’ rights to bring up these issues,” she said. Jolingana said the maximum wing would be under lockdown, meaning that visitation hours would be cut and prisoners’ daily programmes would stop running as investigations were under way. Meanwhile, prisoners’ rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu condemned the rioting but lashed out at Correctional services for ignoring prisoners’ grievances.
“This was a long time coming. We as an organisation (SA Prisoners’ Organisation for Human Rights) have been taking notice, not only at this particular prison but other prisons throughout the country where inmates complain and correctional services ignore their complaints,” he said. The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union also condemned the turmoil, saying they were appalled by the lack of respect for law and order demonstrated by the inmates.
Guatemala: Students set bus ablaze to protest educational changes
GUATEMALA CITY – No one was injured when alleged students from the state University of San Carlos set a bus ablaze to protest massive changes to the country’s educational system that were recently approved by the government. Several students wearing ski masks hijacked a bus and set it on fire because they are against the government’s proposal to extend the degree program for teachers from three to five years. Meantime, police have continued to keep a watchful eye at the Ministry of Education because protesters said they’ll continue the violence until the government backs off its proposal.