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Fri Nov 28 21:13:22 SAST 2014

We are heading towards anarchy: Zille on farm strikes

Sapa | 14 November, 2012 15:110 Comments
DA leader Helen Zille. File photo.
DA leader Helen Zille. File photo.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille warned on Wednesday that the province was 'heading towards anarchy' as farmworker protests continued.

The Democratic Alliance leader said in statement that she had sent ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman an SMS detailing her concerns.

The SMS read: "We are heading towards anarchy. 1000s of jobs will be lost and an industry potentially destroyed.

"I am receiving horrific reports of farmworker intimidation. [Labour Minister Mildred] Oliphant must be recalled from abroad and begin negotiations on the national minimum wage with all stakeholders.

"It is essential that we remove politics from this matter and stabilise the situation. That is the call you must make. I am extremely worried that lives are in danger and that people will retaliate."

Zille said later in the statement that Fransman had to distance himself from alleged incitement in the province by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Last Wednesday, Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said talks about the protest had to find a way for workers to get decent wages.

"The ill treatment and under-payment of workers by some farmers must stop, otherwise we will see a Marikana in De Doorns," he said.

Freedom Front Plus spokesman Pieter Groenewald said on Tuesday the party would ask the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate the "correctness" of statements attributed to Ehrenreich.

According to Groenewald, Ehrenreich allegedly told farmers: "There is already blood on the farmworkers, and unless it stops there will be blood on the farmers of these farms."

On Tuesday Zille said she asked President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the De Doorns farmworkers' wage dispute, and had called for the defence force to get involved.

Farmworkers continued protests in the Western Cape and burned tyres on Wednesday morning while police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd.

Police spokeswoman Constable Lybey Swartz could not confirm this, saying no reports had reached the Western Cape media centre.

Farmworkers in the area started protesting last week in demand of R150-a- day wage and better working conditions.

Last Thursday, Zille was heckled by supporters of expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema while visiting the area.

She had to be escorted away by police when her entourage was pelted with stones by the striking farmworkers.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was expected to meet Zuma on Wednesday to obtain his support for higher wages for farmworkers.

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