We Demand The Release Of All Arrested Activists NOW!!
For Immediate Release: We Demand The Release Of All Activists NOW!!
Cape Town, 5 December 2012 – Two prominent activists from Mawubuye Land Rights Forum and the Coalition for Farm Workers Living Wage and Decent Living Conditions are still being detained in Montague police station.
Mercia Andrews, Denia Jansen and two others were arrested at approximately noon yesterday and have been denied justi
The absence of a magistrate in Montague meant that they have had to remain in jail overnight.
18 were arrested in the Citrusdal area but were later released.
The arrests came at the same time that Tony Ehrenreich, general secretary of COSATU, called off the strike in De Doorns.
Andrews and Jansen will appear this morning in Ashton Magistrates court at 10am.
For further information please contact:
Gavin Joachim – Director of Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) on 078 066 1662
Farmworkers’ strike is over
December 5 2012 at 07:50am
By Daneel Knoetze
A protester rolls a tyre into a burning barricade in Franshhoek. Photo: Reuters
Western Cape – The general strike by workers in the province’s agricultural sector has been called off indefinitely, Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich announced during a rally in De Doorns on Tuesday.
The decision and the premise on which it was made was welcomed by farmers approached by the Cape Argus.
Workers would be encouraged to unionise or to organise into collective bargaining bodies and to negotiate directly with their employers.
This echoed the sentiments of Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies who addressed workers in De Doorns 24 hours before Cosatu’s announcement.
“The demand for a R150-a-day living wage remains unchanged,” Ehrenreich said, adding that a demand for farmworkers to have a share in the profits of the export harvest had been added.
“Workers will negotiate with their employers. We trust that agreements on farms could be reached through such a process.”
A woman protester shouts out as she and others protest against low wages paid by farmers, by burning tires in the township at Franschhoek. Photo: AP
Ehrenreich said strikes would resume on individual farms where agreements were not reached by January 9 next year.
This would coincide directly with “one of the most critical periods in the harvesting process, ensuring that farmers are under maximum pressure to reach an agreement with their workers before then”.
Unions, particularly Cosatu affiliate the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the independent Building and Allied Workers Union of SA (Bawusa), have been signing up new members since the strike began four weeks ago.
But, in Fawu Western Cape chairman Timothy Ncwana’s words, the competition between the unions was distracting from the process of publicising workers’ grievances while the strike was still ongoing.
Unions will now have carte blanche to recruit members.
“But, workers rights will always be protected by Cosatu – whether they are members of a union or not. Cosatu commits to staying abreast of negotiations that will be ongoing, and will take steps to ensure that there is no abuse of workers in these negotiations,” Ehrenreich said.
Anton Rabe, spokesman for Agri SA, welcomed the announcement.
“From the beginning we have accepted that there are challenges in our industry. But throughout we have called for proper processes to be put in place to address these.
“This is a welcome step in the right direction. I have remained an optimist from day one that we would end this process better than we started it,” he said, referring to the start of the strike on November 5 when vineyards in De Doorns were torched and shops looted.
However, farmworker Monwabisi Kondile said he was unhappy because Cosatu had been “playing football with the workers”.
He said at one moment they said they should strike and the next that they should not.
The strikes due to resume on Tuesday had different levels of support in the province.
In Ceres, Pieter du Toit of the Du Toit Group estimated that close to 100 percent of the workforce had gone to work on Tuesday.
In De Doorns, while many workers supported the stayaway, many went to work.
In these two areas the strike went ahead with few reports of intimidation and violence.
By late on Tuesday, there was a tense stand-off between police and farmworkers in Rawsonville.
Farmworkers allege that police opened fire with rubber bullets at a taxi rank at about 3pm.
The workers had returned from a march, organised by the Farmworkers Coalition, during which a memorandum was handed over to the offices of Agri Wes Cape – which represents farmers’ interests – and the Department of Labour in Paarl.
“The workers who left Paarl were in a good mood. The workers that are here are angry and tense,” said Colette Solomon, acting director of Women on Farms who was on the scene.
She slammed the police for “inciting tension rather than defusing it”.
But the police said they were attacked by stone-throwers before firing rubber bullets.
In Montagu, two activists with Mawubuye Land Rights and three workers were arrested during a march, said Gavin Joachims, a colleague of the activists.
Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said seven people had been arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm on the N1 outside Worcester.
A .308 Mauser and 60 rounds of ammunition had been found in a vehicle and no one could produce a valid licence for their possession, Traut said.
The suspects, aged between 33 and 66, were due in court once they had been charged, he said.
Meanwhile, Franschhoek police confirmed that about 500 farmworkers took to the streets in the Groendal area on Tuesday, burning tyres and causing havoc on the town’s roads.
Constable Marize Papier said the protesters were kept off the farms, and that no farms had been damaged.
“At the moment everything is under control, it’s all quiet now.
“There were about 500 workers and no one went on the farms and no one demolished any property,” Papier said.
About 30 police officers had been deployed to the scene.
Traut said a number of people were arrested for public violence.
“I can’t give an exact number yet, but about 15 people were arrested and there were a number of people injured,” he added.
see also: http://www.iol.co.za/business/business-news/armed-men-arrested-as-farm-strike-resumes-1.1435550#.UL8hduMSVlQ
Armed men arrested as farm strike resumes
December 4 2012 at 09:17pm
Franschhoek – Police arrested seven armed men on Tuesday as farm workers in South Africa’s picturesque winelands resumed strike action, with tension enveloping the Western Cape region.
The men, suspected to be members of the far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), were found with one firearm and 60 rounds of ammunition at a roadblock leading to the epicentre of the farmworkers strike.
Regional police spokesman Andre Traut said the suspects aged between 33 and 66 years “were driving in the direction of De Doorns when their vehicle was searched.”
It was in De Doorns – outside Cape Town – that last month’s unrest began, leaving two dead and vineyards burnt.
On Tuesday, there were however few signs of a repeat of last month’s deadly violence as the strike resumed.
The strike, which comes at the start of South Africa’s grape harvest season, turned violent in November when workers burned vineyards, looted shops and blockaded streets with burning tyres in towns close to Cape Town.
Many of the farmers have since hired private security firms to protect their property while the police have sent hundreds of additional officers to monitor the area.
Mario Wanza, a spokesman for the Farmworkers Strike Coalition, said a number of farm workers and protests organisers were arrested after the police fired rubber bullets in the area of Paarl, in the orange farming town of Citrusdal and near the town of Montagu.
“A number of people were shot,” he said. “We expect the strike to carry on for a number of days.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said the situation in farming communities was “under control” late on Tuesday afternoon.
Porschia Adams, a spokeswoman for AgriWes-Cape, which represents farmers in the Western Cape province, said farm workers marched to the group’s offices in Paarl to hand over a memorandum of demands.
“About 200 people came in a group,” she said. “It was very small. Most of the areas today were quiet.”
Workers are demanding that their 70 rand ($8) daily wages be increased to 150 rand ($17).
Adams said a strike was unusual for the farming industry, where wage disputes were normally resolved “on the ground”.
“Farm workers do not normally strike. They are partners in business and they realise what their role is. They sort their issues out on the farm with the farmers.”
Adams said farmers were “reassessing their risks and thinking about alternatives” to using labour.
The fruit industry in the Western Cape employs around 200 000 permanent workers and 200 000 casual labourers.
Michael Loubser, a spokesman for Hex Valley Table Grape Farmers Association, said no violence had been reported early on Tuesday.
“About 95 percent of the permanent staff are at work today,” he said.
The only people who were not able to work were those from the nearby Stofland informal settlement, he said.
“The workers there have been told that if they go to work there will be consequences,” Loubser
So far talks to end the dispute have remained deadlocked.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has said that the basic wage may only be reviewed one year after it was put in place, according to legislation, with the current level dating to March this year.
Tony Ehrenreich, the general secretary of Western Cape branch of union federation Cosatu, said discussions with farmers had been fruitless.
“So far our discussions have yielded no results.” – Sapa-AF