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More arrests in farm wage protests

Cape Town - A total of 26 people were arrested overnight in connection with farmworkers' protests for higher wages, Western Cape police said on Wednesday.

Captain Frederick van Wyk said the arrests were made between 6pm on Tuesday and 8am on Wednesday in Villiersdorp, Kraaifontein and Ladysmith.

Police fire rubber bullets while protesters throw stones at them. File photo: Henk Kruger/Cape Argus. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

In Villiersdorp, 18 people were arrested for public violence and would appear in the Caledon Magistrate's Court later on Wednesday.

In the same area, four men were charged with possession of possible stolen goods. They would appear in court on Thursday.

Three men were arrested in Kraaifontein for public violence and would appear in the Blue Downs Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

A man would appear in the Ladysmith Magistrate's Court the same day for malicious damage to property.

At least 180 people had been arrested in connection with the protests since Wednesday last week.

Van Wyk thanked the community for its co-operation and said people could report any criminal activity to the police's emergency number, 10111.

Farmworkers went on strike last year to demand their daily wage be increased from R69 to R150, and that a coherent land reform programme be implemented.

The strike was suspended in December, but resumed on Wednesday last week in various towns in the province.

According to the Congress of SA Trade Unions, a wage deal of R105 a day was brokered with a “significant amount” of farmers in Clanwilliam on Tuesday.

Provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said this was a model agreement that could be used in other towns to possibly end the strike, which had been violent at times.

He said Cosatu would encourage workers to suspend the strike if Agri-SA acknowledged the Clanwilliam agreement, the space provided for it in law and give an undertaking to ensure no disciplinary action was taken against striking workers.

A deadline of 1pm on Wednesday was given.

Both Agri-SA and provincial entity Agri Wes-kaap said on Wednesday morning they had not been contacted by Cosatu regarding a plan to extend the apparent wage deal.

Agri Wes-Kaap spokeswoman Porschia Adams said that to her knowledge, a wage deal was agreed to by one farmer who owned a number of farms, rather than multiple farmers.

Agri-SA president Johannes Möller later released a statement saying no agricultural wage deal had yet been made in the country.

He said: “An offer made by a single 1/8Clanwilliam 3/8 farmer, who is apparently highly dependent on the services of a large number of temporary workers during peak harvest time, was welcomed by Cosatu and portrayed by them as a collective deal with Clanwilliam farmers which could serve as a trend-setter for wider application.”

He said this offer was apparently not supported or mandated as a collective agreement by other farm leaders and their organisations in the area.

Agri-SA had repeatedly called for individual farmers to negotiate with their workers at farm level, which was apparently taking place.

Ehrenreich was not immediately available to comment.

In a statement, he said a briefing would be held at 4pm “to make a call on the strikers, in the light of recent developments and the attitude of Agri-SA to finding a way forward, that can settle the strike”. - Sapa

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