About 400 farmworkers gather in Wolseley
About 400 farmworkers marched to the Wolseley municipal offices to meet community leaders and police following unrest over wages.
A resident in the area, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, said he watched the protesters walk over the bridge from Pine Valley around 10.30am and gather at the building.
He said police were watching the group and that no shots had been fired or stones thrown.
Protests over wages and living conditions started in De Doorns last week and had spread to 15 other towns in the Western Cape by Wednesday.
The main road in Wolseley, Voortrekker Street, was the scene of violent protests on Wednesday. A stand-off between police and protesters resulted in the death of 28-year-old tractor driver Michael Daniels.
The Cape Times reported that Daniels had been walking past protesters to get to the shops. Farmworker Deon Conradie told the newspaper a senior police officer gave the order for officers to open fire.
“She said ’skiet die goed vrek’ (shoot the things dead). We got frustrated with police and some protesters threw stones and swore at them,” Conradie said.
He said the crowd ran when shots were fired.
The Wolseley resident who spoke to Sapa said police had warned protesters about firing live ammunition. Initially protesters attempted to negotiate with police officers.
A second group of protesters came from another direction and started throwing stones at the police, who respondeed by firing rubber bullets.
“They turned a police vehicle on its side. A farmer came down over the bridge with his pick-up truck. The same guys started throwing stones at the bakkie,” the resident said.
“The 82-year-old man, Tienie Crous, was hit in the head and arms. He’s in Ceres hospital in a stable condition and they are checking for a head injury and a broken or cracked jaw.” A local resident helped the elderly man from his car and got him away from the crowds.
“After a while, a policeman told a resident to tell the protesters that they must please just move back and stop throwing stones because they don’t have rubber bullets.” The group retaliated by throwing stones. Police fired a few shots to protect themselves, he said.
The latest march on Thursday followed a call by the government and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday to suspend the strike for two weeks pending a review of a bargaining council agreement.
Provincial police confirmed there was still unrest in De Doorns, Ceres and Swellendam on Thursday morning.
Cosatu organiser in the province Mike Louw said it would take some time to tell all farmworkers to suspend the strike.
He said resources were stretched, but the union federation was confident it could enforce the suspension, despite some workers’ organisations rejecting it.