Who is behind De Doorns strike?

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By Caryn Dolley

Cape Town - Protest action in the De Doorns area has resulted in a number of underlying problems being exposed.

This includes some workers not knowing who officially represents them, and some who feel that foreigners should not be employed on farms.

 At the weekend, a number of workers told the Cape Times they had joined the strike after protesters had told them to do so, but they did not know who exactly started the action or who was representing them.

“We want more money so we know why we’re striking, but I don’t know who started this last week. You see, we heard on the radio about the Marikana mine strike. We heard about the protests in Cape Town. So for a long time know we thought, why can’t we do that? Then it suddenly started,” said Richard Snay, a farmworker from the Stofland informal settlement.

He had heard on a radio news bulletin that Cosatu was speaking for the farmworkers.

Jonathan Kraus, another farmworker, said he was not officially represented by any person or by a union.

An Agri Wes-Cape statement said: “The initial crowd that gathered seemed leaderless and no one took ownership of the chaos that erupted or the list of grievances that the workers apparently were protesting about.”

It said after Agri Wes-Cape asked for leaders to come forward a number of organisations had, including People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) and Cosatu.

“None of these organisations are fully representative of the workforce in the area and they never approached farming bodies for discussions before the unrest took place,” the statement said.

On Sunday, Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said it had stepped in to assist workers on Wednesday, after some had called for their help.

He said the farmworkers were members of different organisations and unions and “not many” were part of Cosatu. However, Cosatu helped workers who were in trouble, regardless of whether they were members.

Another issue farmworkers were dealing with was the employment of foreigners.

Kraus said in the past few years, a number of residents from Zimbabwe and Lesotho had been employed as seasonal workers in the area.

“They get less money than us and that’s why the farmers hire them. We want them out. We were here first,” he said.

Tinashe Mushwenga, 24, from Zimbabwe and who arrived in De Doorns last year, said she had a work permit and was employed permanently.

“I get R80 a day. The other workers treat me nicely, but come Monday we don’t know if they’re going to fight with the foreigners. It can happen,” she said.

In broken English, another farmworker from Lesotho said she earned R75 a day and worked with locals who did not treat her differently.

On Sunday, Passop member Langton Miriyoga said the majority of foreigners working on the farms were from Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

He said because some did not have work permits and the correct documentation, if they were harassed or their rights violated they could not lodge a complaint with the CCMA.

This left them vulnerable.

Anton Viljoen Jr, general manager of the ASV Group, which consists of a number of farms, said its policy was to hire only South Africans.

caryn.dolley@inl.co.za

Cape Times

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