Minister on her way to De Doorns

Western Cape - Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was on her way to the Hex River Valley in the Western Cape on Tuesday afternoon to address table grape farmers and workers.

Ministerial spokeswoman Palesa Mokomele said Joemat-Pettersson would have a closed meeting with farm worker representatives in Worcester and then go to Stofland informal settlement in De Doorns to address workers.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. File photo: David Ritchie. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Workers had been protesting since last week over working conditions and their wages, demanding R150 a day.

Many workers had been intimidated into joining the strike.

At least 10 people were arrested in the area on Monday for public violence and intimidation.

Mokomele said reports of violence in other areas on Tuesday were being investigated.

Police earlier denied allegations that they attacked a marching group of people in Nduli and Prince Alfred Hamlet, near Ceres, on Tuesday morning.

The Witzenberg municipality, which Ceres falls under, was preparing a report on incidents in the area.

Employer body Agri Wes-Cape said on Tuesday that intimidation of farm workers and producers should end immediately.

Agri Wes-Cape CEO Carl Opperman called on farmers and workers to talk to each other directly about grievances rather than relying on “so-called leaders”.

“We are asking the leaders in government to hold the ‘so-called leaders’ of farm workers, who buses people in to create 'critical mass' for protest action,” he said.

“The tactics of intimidation, violence and fear which women and children are exposed to, is a clear indication of the manner in which union leaders are working.”

The Black Association of the Agriculture Sector (Bawsi) said many farmers were guilty of intimidating their employees.

Bawsi president Nosey Pieterse said they had been travelling through De Doorns since early on Tuesday morning “rescuing” workers from their farmers.

“We have been marching through the farm roads in De Doorns to pick up those workers who called us saying they were intimidated by farmers and threatened with evictions,” he said in a phone interview.

“We travelled 10km by foot with a Nyala (armoured police van) in front of us, and about 1000 workers joined us.”

He said he had received “frenzied” calls from police in Ceres asking him to intervene in labour matters there. He would be travelling to the area later in the day.

Pieterse said he had received reports of farm worker strikes in Riebeek-Kasteel, Citrusdal, Piketberg, Grabouw and Villiersdorp. - Sapa