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Fri Oct 24 18:56:46 SAST 2014

Striking farmworkers block N1, set journo's car on fire

Sapa | 09 January, 2013 16:39
A police officer blocks striking farmworkers as they march for higher wages during a strike called by the Confederation of South African Trade Unions in Franschoek, near Cape Town, December 4, 2012 . File photo.
Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

Protesting Western Cape farmworkers overturned and set fire to a journalist's car in De Doorns on Wednesday.

The car, which belonged to an employee of Independent Newspapers, was destroyed during a clash with police. No one was injured.

Police spokesman Lt-Col Andre Traut said a police captain was injured when the strike resumed on Wednesday.

"It was not serious; he was treated and released."

Traut said 44 people were arrested during the day.

The N1 highway at De Doorns remained closed to traffic on Wednesday afternoon. Protesters blocked the road with rocks and threw stones at the police, who retaliated with rubber bullets.

The strike was suspended last year following an undertaking that negotiations would continue between workers' representatives and individual farmers, but this proved unsuccessful.

Workers wanted wages of R150 a day and a coherent land reform programme.

At least two people were killed during protests in farming areas between August 27 and December 4 last year.

Porchia Adams, a spokeswoman for farmers' group Agri Wes-Cape, said 80 percent of permanently employed farmworkers in the fruit-growing area turned up for work on Wednesday.

She said most of those who failed to did not live on the farms. She claimed they had been coerced into staying away from work.

"They said they had been threatened that their houses would be burnt down if they went to work, so it was not worth the risk for them."

Adams said although the strike came at the worst time for fruit-growers, the organisation had an understanding for "people being unhappy".

"It is peak season, so we really cannot afford it. We hope this will be resolved soon."

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