Cape Town - There were 179 violent strikes and protests in the Western Cape in the past year, provincial police said on Thursday.
“A violent strike is where there is a use of force, a tyre was burnt, where somebody was assaulted with a stick..., if a case of intimidation is opened... or roads are blocked with barricades,” acting provincial police commissioner Peter Jacobs told reporters in Cape Town.
He said the figure was recorded between January 2012 and the start of this year, against the backdrop of the extended farmworkers' strike.
Farmworkers went on strike from November, demanding that the minimum daily wage be increased from R69 to R150, and that a cohesive land reform programme be implemented.
The strike was recently called off on condition that Agri SA committed to “local-level” agreements, and agreed not to victimise workers.
The police figures showed a spike in violent strikes and protests from September, with 19 incidents recorded.
There were 17 in October, 27 in November, and six in December. This month there were 58 violent strikes and protests.
Jacobs said police officers planned as far as possible to ensure their responses to the farmworkers' strike were adequate.
“It's important to understand what is different in this strike. It was spread over a vast area, especially the first part of November, when it was unheard of in rural areas to have such a simultaneous response, an outburst.”
He said the affected area in the Cape Winelands had a radius of at least 600 kilometres.
“Whilst we had a number of incidents, we were able to confine it to specific areas and the level of widespread damage was reduced considerably. There was damage, yes, but it was always localised in scope.”
Jacobs said deployments in these areas would remain until there were clear signs that labour unrest was over.