Farmworkers still detained

Xolani Koyana

A FORTNIGHT after being arrested during protests seven farmworkers remain behind bars, Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry general secretary Nosey Pieterse said.

Its lawyers were preparing a requisition to get the farm- workers to court on Monday for bail applications. They would also ask the National Prosecuting Authority to withdraw the charges.

“In total more than 250 farmworkers were arrested and charged with public violence. Some of them are out on bail and others had been granted free bail,” Pieterse said.

Of the seven still in custody

, he said, “We don’t know exactly what the basis of their long incarceration is. They have a court date in January but we want to bring that forward to Monday.”

Altogether 98 workers were arrested in De Doorns, 72 in Touws River, 40 in Fransch-hoek, 11 in Wellington and Montagu and 18 in Citrusdal. De Doorns police commander Adri Kriel said:

“They have appeared in court. The court has remanded them in custody because there are still issues.” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had told workers in De Doorns she would ask the NPA and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to withdraw the charges.

But the Department of Justice has said that the NPA would be going ahead with prosecutions “where there are reasonable prospects of securing convictions”.

According to the department, there were seven cases involving 17 people accused of public violence, three cases of intimidation and one of possession of a firearm and ammunition without a licence.

Among those arrested, Mawubuye Land Rights Forum activist Mercia Andrews and three others were released on a warning and are set to return to the Ashton Magistrate’s Court on January 21 on charges of incitement to violence, intimidation, illegal gathering and obstructing the law.

Meanwhile the Department of Labour concluded its sectoral determination public hearings earlier this week.

Acting director of labour standards Titus Mtsweni said they were considering more hearings in De Doorns and other areas. This after farmworkers complained they had not been given enough notice.

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