South African farm workers defy calls to end strike
November 16, 2012
Striking South African farm workers resisted a government call to return to work Thursday and demanded action against police over the death of one of their colleagues during clashes. A day after a 28-year-old was killed in clashes with police and the government heralded a deal to end the week-long farm workers strike, police said the situation remained “volatile.”
Unrest was reported in multiple towns and villages across the agricultural belt, not far from Cape Town. In Wolseley workers marched vowing not to go back to work until wage demands are met and rubbishing government declarations that their strike was over. The government and union grouping COSATU earlier claimed workers had agreed to freeze the strike for two weeks while the sector’s 70 rand ($8) minimum daily wage is reviewed.
“It’s not over for us,” said 19-year-old seasonal fruit farm worker Mandla Betshe.
“The killing is making people more determined that they must not go back to work,” he said.
Protesters insisted they will not return to the fruit-growing region’s farms until they are granted a daily wage of at least 150 rand ($17). Aside from demonstrations in Wolseley, Police reported disturbances in the towns of De Doorns, Ceres and Swellendam. “Police officers are deployed at all affected areas to maintain law and order, and to protect the public,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut of the Western Cape police. Farmers in the picture-postcard region tried to make sense of the violence. At a meeting with police and Wolseley workers demand the removal of the local captain in connection with their colleagues killing.