Injuries rise as protests rage on

nd ca villiersdorp 24.jpg inlsa Strikers gathered at dawn in Villiersdorp, facing off with police, who refused to let them into the town centre. Picture: Thomas Holder

Violent protests have left several people injured, while suspected arsonists have left a shortage of timber bins for the fruit harvesting season in the Grabouw region.

A producer of wooden fruit bins, Chep, a subsidiary of a Sydney-listed Australian company, said it would probably run short of fruit bins in the Grabouw area, where about 3 000 wooden bins were torched.

Spokesman Derick Koekemoer said the towering pile of wooden bins, which were about to be issued to farms for the harvest, had been set alight by a petrol bomb at about 9.30pm on Thursday at the company’s plant near the Grabouw suburb of Pineview, which has been the epicentre of the rioting in the Overberg town.

In the worst of the violence on Monday, protesters in Villiersdorp occupied the main road in the town until 11am, when police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse them.

An army helicopter dropped members of the Tactical Response Team to bolster the police numbers.

Warrant Officer November Filander reported that an officer was injured when stones were thrown at a police station.

He was taken to hospital.

The police arrested 16 people on public violence charges in De Doorns, nine in Wolseley, 12 in Villiersdorp and two in Ladismith.

Alight

Workers set tyres alight at the police station in Villiersdorp, but no damage was caused.

“We had to fire rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, and arrested 12 people for public violence (in Villiersdorp),” said Filander.

In Wolseley, protesters threw stones at police and burned tyres.

The R43 in Worcester was closed because burning tyres were strewn across the road.

The Labour Department has extended its public hearings on farmworkers’ minimum wages as it prepares for a review.

Hearings are to be held across the Western Cape.

Acting department spokesman, Mokgadi Pela, said the first hearing would take place in Grabouw. A second hearing would be held in Paarl on Tuesday night.

Hearings have also been set down for De Doorns, Robertson, Oudtshoorn and Vredendal for the remainder of the week, but venues have yet to be confirmed.

The Labour Department held four weeks of public hearings across the country in November and last month following an extended strike by seasonal farmworkers in the Western Cape.

Farmworkers say they want the daily minimum wage to be increased from R69 to R150.

The Employment Conditions Commission is to review the sectoral determination for agriculture, which stipulates minimum wages, number of leave days, working hours and termination rules, among other aspects.

The sectoral minimum wage determination was put in place in March and remains in force for 12 months.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is expected to make an announcement on the new wage determination next month.

The determination for the agricultural sector would come into effect on March 1.


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