Farmworkers demand action after man killed

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IOL news nov 15  South Africa Strikes

AP

A police truck, left, that was overturned by farm workers after they went on a rampage in Wolseley on Wednesday.

Cape Town - Striking farmworkers defied a government call to return to work Thursday, with labourers demanding action against a police captain over the death of one of their colleagues during clashes.

Workers in the Western Cape town of Wolseley - earlier the scene of deadly violence -marched through the town early on Thursday, chanting and singing, despite government announcements that the strike had been suspended.

The government and Cosatu had earlier announced that workers would freeze the strike for two weeks while the sector's R70 minimum wage is reviewed.

But protesters have insisted they will not return to the fruit-growing region's farms until they receive a daily wage of at least R150.

“It's not over for us. We are continuing no matter what. We are going forward no matter what,” said 19-year-old seasonal fruit farm worker Mandla Betshe.

“It's just a wish for them (for it) to be over.”

“The strike is not finished,” insisted Pieter Opperman, 38, who earns R80 a day

“If we get that settlement of R150, I will go back to work with all my heart. Because then I know I can put food on the table for my family and I can sort myself out.”

The scene early Thursday was tense, with a heavy police presence.

A worker delegation handed a list of demands to police including the suspension of the local police captain, after 28-year-old Michael Daniels was killed in clashes.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) had opened an investigation into the matter.

“The most important thing is... who gave the order to shoot. Obviously someone has to take a responsibility,” said Lamie Mqungquthu, part of the worker delegation.

“Our aim today is to make peace with the police, they must leave the people because all of us have a right” to protest, he said.

Police described the situation as “volatile,” with disturbances in the towns of De Doorns, Ceres and Swellendam.

“Police officers are deployed at all affected areas to maintain law and order, and to protect the public,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut of the Western Cape police.

Cosatu said on Thursday that it would take a bit more time to inform all farmworkers to suspend their strike.

"We have in many towns deployed our organisers and those of other organisations to go report back and speak to workers," organiser Mike Louw said.

"Unfortunately sporadic pockets of protests are still happening, and the behaviour and actions of police have exacerbated the situation.

"Our attempt really is to gather information now and deploy people further to go back and inform people. We are calling on farmers to be lenient and allow workers to return, even though they may return late." - Sapa, AFP


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