Nosey Pieterse, an organiser of the recent farmworkers' strikes in the Western Cape, is getting funds from the government. Photo: Leon Lestrade
Nosey Pieterse, an organiser of the recent farmworkers' strikes in the Western Cape, is getting funds from the government. Photo: Leon Lestrade

Cape strike organiser gets state funding

By Cobus Coetzee Time of article published Apr 2, 2013

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Cape Town - Nosey Pieterse, an organiser of the recent farmworkers’ strikes in the Western Cape, is getting funds from the government.

Pieterse’s organisation, the Black Association of the Wine and Spirits Industry (Bawsi), played a critical role in mobilising the striking workers “towards calmness and constructive engagement with the employers”, according to a report on the strikes by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The report was submitted to the portfolio committee for agriculture in Parliament last month.

The department also told Parliament that it was paying money to Bawsi. The chief director for sector capacity development, Mokutule Kgobokoe, said the government was funding Bawsi to help with the “rights of (the) vulnerable” in the Western Cape.

For the past two weeks, the department has failed to answer questions from the Cape Times about why it is funding Bawsi, how much money has gone to the organisation and which other organisations are getting funds.

Bawsi’s trade union, Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa), helped mobilise workers’ protests during the strikes.

Farming in several towns across the province was brought to a standstill from November to January when workers protested at low wages and poor living conditions.

Agri SA labour committee chairman Anton Rabe said the funding of Bawsi raised questions. “Certainly there is a conflict here, specially if you think of Pieterse’s role in the strike. Why Bawsi?” he asked.

Pieterse confirmed Bawsi had received money from the department, but said it was the government’s responsibility to supply details.

Pieterse said Bawsi applied alongside other organisations last year to register on the department’s NGO database and had received funding.

The department spent a total of R13 million on NGOs last year and budgeted R16m for this year.

Pieterse said Bawsi helped the department distribute food parcels to families during the strike and defended workers who were dismissed from work or evicted from houses on farms.

“We also ensure the newly imposed rent and payments (farmers charge) after the strike are stopped,” he said.

Pieterse said Bawusa was created out of Bawsi. “Bawsi is an NGO and it couldn’t defend workers at the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration),” he said.

When the Cape Times put questions to Kgobokoe, he asked why the information was needed.

The deputy director for communication, Antoinette Fourie, said the information first had to be signed off by Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and the department’s acting director-general, Sipho Ntombela, but had not responded since.

Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesperson, Palesa Mokomele, did not answer any questions.

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