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Western Cape - Western Cape police are ready to deal with any unrest and violence associated with Wednesday’s planned farmworker strike.
Provincial police commissioner and chairman of the Western Cape joint operational co-ordinating committee Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer said anyone who broke the law would be arrested and prosecuted.
The Western Cape government has also activated its provincial disaster management centre at Tygerberg Hospital, from which it is to co-ordinate and respond to any possible labour unrest on farms, said Local Government MEC Anton Bredell.
He said disaster management officials would be “monitoring areas diligently” with the police and district disaster management centres across the province.
“All necessary government departments and stakeholders, such as the emergency services and other response agencies, have been placed on high alert in preparation for the strike action,” Bredell said. “Contingency plans have been established for various potential threats.”
Lamoer said farmworkers had the right to peaceful protests to voice their concerns and grievances, as long as they did so within the bounds of the law, respecting the rights of others.
“We urge farmworkers to protest within the boundaries of the law and refrain from using violence during their actions,” Lamoer said. “We will act against anyone who breaks the law and they will be arrested and prosecuted.”
Last week, Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich announced that the farmworker strike – which was suspended on December 5 – would resume on Wednesday.
Workers are demanding a R150 a day in wages and a “coherent land reform programme”.
The strike was suspended when workers agreed with Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to give farm owners and the government a chance to discuss wages for farmworkers pending a review this year of the sectoral determination.
Parties agreed that workers and farm owners would continue with farm-to-farm negotiations, while unions would recruit more members during the holidays.
On Tuesday, Agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg warned farmworkers to think about their jobs before participating in the strike.
Van Rensburg said police and authorities in the Boland had not received notification of the strike from unions as of Tuesday evening.
He said this made any gathering or demonstration by farmworkers illegal.
“It is an unprotected strike. Farmworkers must think very carefully whether they want to risk their jobs by joining in the strike,” Van Rensburg said.
“We are very concerned about the strike as it comes during the harvest of table grapes for the export market. This is crucial for the economy and provides thousands of jobs.”
Van Rensburg said the provincial government was committed to the safety and security of all the province’s citizens as well as holidaymakers and tourists in the Western Cape.
To report any incidence of violence relating to the strike call 10111.
In the event of any life-threatening emergencies requiring emergency medical assistance, call 112 on a cellphone or the toll-free 10177 number from a landline.