Ehrenreich accused of hate speech
November 14 2012 at 12:15pm
GROWING ANGER: About 300 people occupied a circle on the R60 in Robertson as protest action by farm workers which started in De Doorns spread yesterday.
Photo: Ryan Jacobs
by Aziz Hartley
THE Freedom Front Plus is to ask the Human Rights Commission to probe alleged hate speech by Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, in an address to striking farm workers in De Doorns.
FF Plus MP Pieter Groenewald said yesterday: “According to SMS messages received by the FF Plus as well as quotes on the Facebook page of ‘Cape Independence from South Africa’, Mr Ehrenreich allegedly said to striking farm workers in De Doorns: ‘There is already blood on the farm- workers and unless it stops there will be blood on the farmers of these farms. We will grab the land and give it to the rightful owners.’”
Groenewald said Ehrenreich had continued, saying: “We are here today to declare war. We are against violence, but if this is what it takes to force a bad farmer in a direction, then they should be smashed (moered) in that direction. If farmers continue to violate the rights of our workers like mad dogs then we need to beat them until they stop.”
Ehrenreich denied having made the remarks during the farmworkers’ strike. He said that he recalled having made similar remarks about five years ago and did not remember what had happened to a complaint lodged against him at the time, he said.
A war of words has also erupted between the DA and ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman after DA MP Annette Steyn alleged the strike was part of an ANC campaign to make the province ungovernable.
“It is clear that these strikes and intimidation are politically motivated. They are the latest instalment in the ANC’s Project Reclaim which aims to make the Western Cape ungovernable. It is no coincidence that Marius Fransman has emerged as a central figure in the De Doorns unrest,” Steyn said in a statement.
Fransman hit back, saying the DA was in denial about having some members in its provincial cabinet who sided with farmers.
“The DA in the province and in the National Assembly is clutching at straws.
“The reality is that the Agriculture MEC compromised his role when he said he saw nothing wrong with the wages farmworkers get. Via its MECs the DA has institutionalised in its cabinet the interests of farmers in the Western Cape,” he said.
Health MEC Theuns Botha, Agriculture MEC Gerrit Van Rensburg and Local Government MEC Anton Bredell had farming backgrounds, said Fransman. “The DA must answer why farmers still deduct electricity and rent from farmworkers who earn an already low wage of R69 a day. By stealth farmers take R30 to R40 away from workers. What is the DA government doing about it?” he asked.
Farm protests flare up again in Western Cape
Reports of looting in Robertson, while De Doorns residents burn tyres and agriculture minister says her department ‘did what it could’
PROTESTS in the Western Cape flared up again on Wednesday when angry farmworkers looted a wholesale store as they tried to march to the Robertson town centre.
It is the third day of farm protests in the Western Cape, where workers are demanding a minimum wage of R150 a day, an increase from the roughly R70 a day they earn now. According to reports on Wednesday, protests were taking place in 16 towns and several workers had been arrested for public violence.
On Tuesday, protesters had burned tyres and placed rocks in an intersection on the road from Robertson to Ashton and Bonnievale. Several roads in Robertson remained closed on Wednesday, including the main road to Ashton and Bonnievale and the road to the small farming community of McGregor.
At about 10am, protesters marched towards the town centre, throwing stones at shop staff as they walked down Voortrekker Road. Some began looting Raimondos wholesale store, and police fired rubber bullets.
Robertson resident Jackie Gardner was at AH Marais agricultural store as protesters entered the town. “We wanted to leave but the police told us to stay inside,” she said. “While we were waiting, we heard what sounded like rubber bullets outside.”
Police stopped the protesters before they reached the town centre. Shopkeepers along Voortrekker Road and elsewhere in the town closed their shops for fear of looting.
A heavy police presence remained in and around Robertson.
Tyres burn in De Doorns
Meanwhile, residents set tyres alight at a De Doorns informal settlement in the province on Wednesday morning.
A road leading from a bridge into Stofland was blocked by a heap of burning tyres, sending thick black smoke into the air. A few people milled around the tyres, with an armoured police Nyala parked nearby.
Farmworkers have been protesting over wages and living conditions in the verdant Hex River Valley since last week. The N1 highway leading into De Doorns was closed during the violence, in which vineyards were set alight and stones thrown.
The highway was open on Wednesday morning, with trucks carrying fruit and other cargo passing through. Fruit stalls and roadside shops remained closed.
The portion of the highway past De Doorns was marked with black circles where police had earlier removed burning tyres.
Western Cape police said no violence had occurred overnight in the farming community.
“The situation is … being monitored by police,” said De Doorns police spokesman Lindikhaya Mkhontwana said, adding that some arrests had been made on Tuesday.
Food and Allied Workers’ Union president Attwell Nazo and general secretary Katishi Masemola were due later on Wednesday to address workers in Ceres and De Doorns.
The leaders were expected to tell workers about the government’s response to their demands.
‘We have done what we could’
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson visited the area on Tuesday and said she would pass on workers’ grievances to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant. She also asked workers to return to farms.
Ms Joemat-Pettersson was also expected on Wednesday to meet President Jacob Zuma to discuss higher wages for farmworkers. Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said he was aware of the proposed meeting, but would not comment as it was an internal matter.
On Wednesday morning, Ms Joemat-Pettersson called on the Department of Labour to intervene in the strike.
“I have no capacity to advise or influence the employment conditions commission,” she told radio station SAfm. “That is a matter for the Department of Labour or the minister of labour. We have done what we could as the Department of Agriculture and we will continue supporting workers.”
She said she had helped “restore relationships” between striking workers and farmers.
“I think we (the department) have acted as a facilitator to allow these negotiations and talks to stay on track,” she said. “We cannot afford this sector to lose jobs … that is why we decided to participate in normalising the situation.”
She added: “We call on all workers to stop the violence, to stop the vandalism.”
Few farmworkers could be seen in the vineyards around De Doorns on Wednesday morning.
End in sight for Amplats strike
November 14 2012 at 12:45pm
Johannesburg – Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said on Wednesday it believed strike leaders were “happy” with the company’s revised pay offer to end two months of wildcat action in South Africa and expected miners to resume work on Thursday.
“The strike committee members will today present the offer to their members and encourage them to return to work tomorrow,” Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole told Reuters. – Reuters