De Doorns - 121115 - Gerhard de Kock stands in his vineyards - Photo: Thomas Holder

Cape Town - Farm-owner Gerhard de Kock, of De Doorns, says he refuses to be intimidated by strikers who set his vineyards on fire last week.

De Kock, 60, is chairman of the Cape Orchard Company and Grape Alliance Group Companies, which own 13 farms and export a few million crates of grapes annually. He was born in the Hex River Valley.

He explained to the Cape Argus his interpretation of the strikes that have brought the Boland farming industry to a standstill.

“They are anarchists, many of them illegal immigrants - people with nothing to lose, who are being used as pawns in a political game to make the Western Cape ‘ungovernable’,” he said.

Labour relations on his farms had been good before these “anarchists” started intimidating his staff to stay away, he said.

Many of the farmers sent their families away last week and now armed themselves before turning in for the night, said a member of De Kock’s camp, who listened in on the interview.

De Kock said he had been close to brokering a deal with local community leaders. “But that all changed when the top brass of the ANC and Cosatu arrived in De Doorns. On that day, they told the people that R150 was the only acceptable settlement.” This was not sustainable, he said.

De Kock said grape farming was one of the most labour-intensive sectors in commercial agricultural.

“Each grape, millions of them, need to be carefully worked with the hand. Labour accounts for 40 percent of our input costs.”

De Kock said he had always paid above the minimum legal wage, and was willing to settle on a R95-a-day minimum for unskilled permanent labourers.

Cape Argus