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Minister defends farmworker remarks

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By SAPA

Cape Town - Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson remained unapologetic on Monday about controversial remarks she made to striking Western Cape farmworkers.

Replying in writing to a parliamentary question, Joemat-Pettersson said her call for all criminal charges against the striking workers to be dropped was justified.

“Each and every criminal case or charge that was laid against a farm worker must be withdrawn,” she was quoted as saying while addressing thousands of workers in De Doorns last month.

Several workers were arrested during the violent strike.

Democratic Alliance MP Debbie Schafer asked Joemat-Pettersson on what grounds she thought farmworkers should not be arrested and prosecuted for criminal actions.

On Monday, she replied that in some cases protest action would include behaviour which could be seen as “lawless”.

“This however does not make such behaviour illegal. I would not want to see farm workers victimised or arrested for such behaviour, even where it may appear to be lawless, and my comments were made in this light.”

Joemat-Pettersson then drew a distinction between the terms “lawless” and “illegal”, which are synonyms.

“Where an action is illegal, and the culprits can be identified, the necessary steps must be taken by the police.”

She said she would be sticking to her guns on the issue.

“Exhibiting lawless behaviour is not a criminal offence, although certain actions may be,” said Joemat-Pettersson. - Sapa

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