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Cape Town - The Western Cape stands on the brink of anarchy and the agricultural industry could collapse, putting thousands of jobs at risk, Premier Helen Zille said on Wednesday.
Zille convened an urgent cabinet meeting on Tuesday and activated the provincial disaster risk management centre at Tygerberg Hospital.
Eight thousand crates of grapes were set alight in Ceres and Prince Alfred Hamlet and numerous cold stores and packing houses destroyed. A number of farmers have requested protection.
An Eskom transformer had also been burnt and wheat land was burning in Nduli and Porterville.
Firefighters were battling to get to blazes as protesters barricaded roads, although six fire-fighting aircraft were being used to douse flames and to drop firefighters into affected areas.
Zille said the provincial government was doing all it could, but it did not have power over the police or the army.
She said the unrest was putting an entire industry at risk, and it would have repercussions for food security.
Provincial Commissioner Arno Lamoer had gone up to Pretoria for a briefing with national police commissioner Riya Phiyega.
Zille accused provincial ANC leader and Deputy Minister of International Relations Marius Fransman of driving the unrest.
She said he should rather now work with her in helping to defuse the situation.
Her calls to the president to send in the army had gone unanswered, she told a press briefing on Wednesday.
“It is essential that [President] Jacob Zuma call in the South African Defence Force to help the police protect lives, property and the industry to save thousands of jobs,” Zille said.
“It is strange that during a crisis of this magnitude the premier tries to get hold of the president, leaves messages and writes letters, but there is no response. There cannot be any issue more pressing than this one.”