Protesting farm workers set fire to journalist’s car

The car, which belonged to Independent Newspapers and was being used by Cape Times journalist Xolani Koyana, was destroyed.
Koyana said he and an intern reporter had been in the vehicle when protesters surrounded them and told them to move. “I was with another reporter ... some people managed to pull him out,” he said.

When Koyana got out of the car later, a group of people escorted him to a nearby church. The car was set alight when he was already in the church.“Some guys, when I got out (of the car), they hit me,” he said.Speaking from the De Doorns police station, Koyana said he had sustained only a few cuts on his arms.
Police spokesman Lt-Col Andre Traut said 44 people were arrested after the farmworkers’ strike resumed on Wednesday.

The N1 highway at De Doorns remained closed to traffic on Wednesday afternoon. Protesters blocked the road with rocks and threw stones at the police, who retaliated with rubber bullets. A police captain was injured in the violence.“It was not serious. He was treated and released,” Lt-Col Traut said.Porchia Adams, a spokeswoman for farmers’ group Agri Wes-Cape, said 80% of permanently employed farm workers in the fruit-growing area turned up for work on Wednesday, and that most of those who were absent did not live on the farms.

She claimed they had been coerced into staying away from work. “They said they had been threatened that their houses would be burnt down if they went to work, so it was not worth the risk for them.”Adams said although the strike came at the worst time for fruit growers, the organisation had an understanding for “people being unhappy”, but added: “It is peak season, so we really cannot afford it. We hope this will be resolved soon.”

Western Cape agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg on Wednesday expressed concern that the renewed strike would damage the economically important table-grape crop that is ripe for harvesting.“There is a crop ready for harvesting and if this doesn’t happen, there will be no pay for any workers,” he said.There are about 100 farm units in the De Doorns area that employ about 8,000 permanent workers and another 8,000 seasonal workers.

“What worries me is that there is very little farming activity taking place, even though most of the permanent workers have come to work,” Mr van Rensburg said.
The strike was suspended last year following an undertaking that negotiations would continue between workers’ representatives and individual farmers, but this proved unsuccessful.Workers want their daily wages of R69 increased to R150, and a coherent land reform programme.At least two people were killed during protests in farming areas between August 27 and December 4 last year.

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 14:20

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