Johannesburg - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille had asked President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the De Doorns farmworkers' wage dispute, her office said on Tuesday.
“The consequences of the current crisis will be very severe for the Western Cape and South Africa as a whole if they are not immediately addressed,” Zille wrote in a letter to Zuma.
President Jacob Zuma. File photo: Henk Kruge. Credit: Independent Newspapers
She asked him to delegate Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant to address the situation.
Zille also called on the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to take part in the discussions without inciting intimidation.
“It is nothing short of a disgrace that a formal Cosatu statement announced ‘Marikana has come to the farms’.”
On Wednesday, Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said talks had to find a way for workers to get decent wages, and to end “the atrocious living conditions of workers on farms and in the informal areas”.
“The ill treatment and under-payment of workers by some farmers must stop, otherwise we will see a Marikana in De Doorns,” he said.
Farmworkers in the area started protesting last week in demand of a R150-a-day wage and better working conditions.
On Tuesday, a policeman had to be hospitalised after being hit on the head by a stone thrown by protesters. On Monday, 10 people were arrested for public violence and intimidation.
The Freedom Front Plus has also criticised Cosatu for making statements calling for violence.
FFPlus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said on Tuesday it would ask the South African 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.
“We will grab the land and give it to the rightful owners... We are here today to declare war. We are against violence, but if this is what it takes to force a bad farmer in a direction, then they should be smashed in that direction.”
Groenewald said Ehrenreich apparently then told farmers that those who treated workers like dogs should be beaten until they stopped.
On Tuesday, Witzenburg municipality officials said protesting farmworkers had caused damage estimated at R500 000.
“Property damage has been sustained including the destruction of a packing shed, veld fires, damage to farming crops, burning of tyres in streets and throwing of stones,” said municipal spokesperson Anette Radjoo. - Sapa