Cape Town - Farmworkers’ union leaders allegedly threatened to kill several grape producers in De Doorns when the two groups met in Worcester on Friday in a bid to resolve the wage dispute that sparked violent protests in the town this week.
“Things are not going well at all,”
Agri Wes-Cape spokeswoman Porchia Adams said.
“When our representatives went back into discussions… after a break, some of our representatives were threatened with their lives. That’s really going below the line, and we find it unacceptable.”
Western Cape police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said a charge of intimidation was laid at the Worcester police station on Friday afternoon after the complainant was allegedly verbally abused at a meeting earlier in the day.
The police spokesman said a similar incident involving an alleged telephone death threat also occurred on Thursday, which also resulted in a charge of intimidation being laid at the De Doorns police station.
Traut said no arrests had yet been made, and that investigations were continuing.
Also on Friday, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson called a meeting to seek a solution to the labour disputes, according to her office, which said the meeting would take place today.
The meeting would be attended by the ministers of labour and police, the Western Cape provincial government, representatives of farmer unions and farm workers, her spokesman Palesa Mokomele said.
Further negotiations would be conducted between farmers and workers at different farms.
Farm workers in De Doorns began protesting on Monday, demanding wages of R150 a day, improved living conditions, electricity, and an end to illegal evictions, illegal immigrant workers, and labour brokers.
Farmworkers have set fire to vineyards in the area, with some arrested during protests that temporarily closed the N1 highway between Touws River and De Doorns.
Late last night police said the situation was quiet.
On Thursday, DA leader Helen Zille was heckled by supporters of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema while visiting De Doorns.
Agri Wes-Cape chief executive Carl Opperman confirmed the threats made by union representatives in a statement yesterday.
“After the first break, threats were made by union representatives towards producers’ representatives, which gruesomely placed their lives and safety in jeopardy.”
The talks went ahead, however, and Agri Wes-Cape was keen to normalise the situation in the De Doorns agricultural district, Opperman added.
He called on all farmworkers involved to return to work on Monday, encouraging them to continue negotiating directly with their respective employers.
Western Cape Cosatu leader Tony Ehrenreich said Cosatu supported the demand for R150 per day, and rejected the R80 offered by farmers as “an insult and return to slave wages”.
The talks, which started at the Worcester civic centre on Tuesday, are being chaired by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration.
Besides grape producers, Cosatu, the Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry, and the Hex River Farmworkers’ Interest Group also attended the talks.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) on Friday called on Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to intervene.
Fedusa’s Gretchen Hum-phries said in a statement that Oliphant should check legal wage requirements and conditions of employment for farmworkers. - Weekend Argus-Sapa