Once again Terry Bell has exposed some of the real issues in the farming strike. All of us in the Western Cape are fully aware of the effort to try and make the Western Cape ungovernable.

Whether this effort is co-ordinated or not is not the point. It must be noted that the only province experiencing the agricultural nightmare is the only province which has had the threat. The minimum wage is the same throughout South Africa.

Over and above this, the majority of the casual labourers who took part in this strike are from other provinces or from neighbouring countries. Most of the farmers have reported that their staff had reported for duty despite enormous intimidation from outsiders.

The internal squabbling between the unions, the Department of Labour, the Boland labour rights activists and even the ANC would be laughable if it did not have the potential to destroy an entire industry.

We all need to bear in mind that the fruit industry in the Western Cape is one of our biggest industries and the crippling effect of the strikes has already affected businesses and their labour far beyond the farming industry.

Our industrial relations system took a hard knock with the mining strikes last year and the lesson wasn’t learnt.

The farming strikes have underlined the need to relook at collective bargaining, bargaining councils and the principal of majority unions. Many of the damaging strikes we have seen lately have been grassroots driven and are reminiscent of the mining strikes on the Rand in 1922.

The old industrial relations system devised the industrial councils (now called bargaining councils), which were there to protect the interests of white business and white labour. Furthermore, the new system of ministerial determinations also needs a rethink. It is almost impossible for a minimum wage to be set for an industry across the country.

As we enter 2013 with the continuing global economic slowdown, these troubles are adding to South Africa’s woes while leading to further job losses as opposed to much-needed job creation. We need the government to have a careful look at the system and investigate labour reform to somehow increase flexibility without infringing on workers’ rights.

MICHAEL BAGRAIM

Cape Town

New Age breakfasts serve ANC interests

The Communication Workers Union is of the opinion that it can only service “right wing” interests if the New Age newspaper were to be barred from the breakfast show on SABC television.

Such a banishment would deprive “ordinary people” from getting the ANC's message. And, as importantly, all these grandiose plans it has for the future.

In supporting SABC 2’s interests in this matter and sponsoring it through the aegis of parastatal assistance (Eskom and Transnet), there is no doubt that the ruling faction is behind these television breakfasts.

This is all designed to inflate the ANC and use the customary insults and criticisms to stifle the threat of the DA and their “bourgeois” media.

So, with the Gupta family being the ANC’s newest benefactors, the government and its hangers on are using every component to remain alive politically.

A daunting task. But it is another foul-up where the ANC has lost all its options.

Rita Easton

Via e-mail

Eskom defies maths in tariff hike proposals

Another respected figure, Professor Anton Eberhard of the National Planning Commission, has now weighed into the Eskom tariff debate with the suggestion that all of Eskom’s recent tariff increases, including the present demand, are not based on fact.

They are notional, almost random, applying the same mathematical “logic” as the National Energy Regulator of SA’s subsequent downward revision of Eskom’s demands: there is even a reasoned theory that the tariff increase “calculations” were outsourced to a consultant.

If this has a vein of truth, Eskom is taking the country’s now notorious lack of mathematical skills to the point of ridicule! None of Eskom’s demands withstand serious examination.

To add further fuel to the boiler of discontent, we have recently experienced the Xstrata/Glencore compact with Eskom, the details of which are a state secret, otherwise we would all know the price we have to pay for their low quality coal.

With respect, I would suggest that Eskom chief executive Brian Dames applies to be the country’s court jester, to entertain the president by repeatedly producing white rabbits out of a battered top hat. It requires less magic than persuading the country that Eskom’s demands are real!

Roger Toms

Hout Bay